Indiana Daily Student

A BBC tour is better than Disney World

Mickey Mouse has met his match.

The happiest place on earth brings to mind images of Mickey Mouse leading a parade of Disney characters down a crowded street, the flying Dumbo, the whirling teacup rides and the blue turrets of Cinderella’s castle.  

But as a journalism major, my newfound happiest celebration on earth is definitely a visit to the British Broadcasting Corporation Television Centre. 

For readers who are not familiar with the BBC, it is a radio, television and Internet broadcasting company, and its news division is arguably the world’s most reliable. It is also the largest and oldest broadcaster in the world. 

In addition to BBC news, the programming is very popular in the United Kingdom, running some shows for as long as 45 years.

The approximately two-hour tour began with a brief introduction outside the question mark-shaped building. One of the two guides was sure to warn the tour group, dotted with British humor of course, of the possibility of seeing recognizable BBC mugs inside the building.

The tour continued to a conference room with huge glass windows allowing the tour group a clear shot of the BBC newsroom.  

Next, the tour guides led the group to the center of the facility, which is graced with a series of statues that used to be a fountain. The BBC stopped using it as a fountain because the constant sound of running water combined with its echoing in the circular courtyard decreased the productivity of BBC employees, causing frequent stops to the toilet.

This area is only for pedestrians, but exceptions have been made for some, such as the Queen of England.

The tour progressed to a small area where we were able to play around with blue screens. This technology was used by the BBC to produce special effects for the show “Doctor Who.”

A stop at one of the BBC’s greenrooms decked out in modular furniture, white rugs and cow-skinned patterned chairs was filled with celerity gossip. The tour guides shared some of the requests celebrities made on their hospitality rider forms – a list of their requests to ensure their comfort.   My favorite was a request by Mariah Carey for a box of puppies in her room to play with before she performed.  

The tour ended when three members of the tour group acted as contestants on the show “The Weakest Link,” which included news breaks starring a tour member as the anchor. Three tour members were in the control room operating the lights, sounds and additional video clips during the news breaks. I was operating the video clips, and I was like a kid in a candy shop pushing the buttons.    

Each tour differs from others because the Television Centre is an operating building, and not all the facilities are available for each tour.  

Also worth mentioning is the cost. In a country where the U.S. dollar is worth 61 cents, the 7- pound admission for students is one of the city’s cheaper activities.   

To be there, at the BBC, was my dream come true.

Sorry Mickey, but I would much rather spend my holiday at the BBC.

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