Communicating change at the BBC


Communicating change at the BBC

BBC photos by Robert TimothyHow do you communicate change in your organisation? When something ends, how do you mark the occasion and say goodbye?

If you’ve studied change theory, then you’ll probably be aware of the stages of change (see this article I wrote recently citing Kübler-Ross) and use this to inform your internal communication approach.

Today I discovered a short film that captures the inside of BBC Television Centre in White City, London, being dismantled. The building was the headquarters of BBC Television between 1960 and 2013.

Update at 4.15pm on 11 September: I just received a tweet from @Gillw72 saying that the film has been taken down. I’m not sure why. I’ll keep you posted if I find out why. Obviously makes it hard for you to read this article in context!

It looks like it has been removed from YouTube. However, if you would like to see inside Television Centre, photographer Robert Timothy has a set of photographs on his website and I’ve highlighted some on this page too.

I’m curious to know the reason why it was deleted. To me it appeared to be a personal dedication to the building, it wasn’t negative and cast the BBC in a positive light. It was uploaded on 9 September and was being shared via social media today by current and former employees (see some of their comments below) and had 1,518 views before being deleted. It was even tweeted by @BBC_Culture. Happy to publish the reason if someone cares to shed light…


BBC News moved to new facilities in Broadcasting House on 18 March 2013, and the building remained in active use with many programmes filming in the studios, until it closed officially on 31 March 2013.

This change is not just impacting BBC employees, but I think the nation too as we recognise iconic structures and sets being pulled apart.

Looking at YouTube, I can see it was filmed by Rosie Collins. Her website describes her as a professional freelance photographer and film maker, who freelances for BBC Worldwide as a camerawoman. I’m not sure whether it is an ‘official’ film that was commissioned by the BBC, or her own personal tribute.

How to communicate change
I was reminded of the three stages of transition described by William Bridges and Susan Mitchell (2000) in Leading Transition: A New Model for Change. (Published in On Leading Change, edited by The Drucker Foundation).

Transition is the state that changes puts people into. Change is external (new policy/practice), whereas transition is internal (psychological reorientation).

Bridges and Mitchell describe three stages of transition:
• Endings
• The neutral zone (explorations), and
• New beginnings.

Saying goodbye
One of the key stages of communicating change and highlighting the transition is the chance to say goodbye (when possible). I build this into change communication inside organisations and advise my clients accordingly.

For example ‘beating the boundaries’ of an old office before a move takes place, having a memorial for a deceased senior leader, or creating time capsules of significant periods in a company’s history, e.g. packaging changes. Actions like these are useful to help employees move forward and note that an old period, way of working or physical location is no more.

Do you do this? What activities have you done to say goodbye in your company?

about-media-cityChange at the Beeb
I was reminded of this while watching the BBC clip today.

In May 2011, BBC North @BBCnorth was opened at MediaCityUK @mediacityUK, in Salford Quays, (pictured – it is four miles from Manchester city centre).

It is the UK’s first purpose built media city and is overseen by developers the Peel Group, who have invested £650 million to date.

The BBC has been established at MediaCityUK since 2011 and produces a wide range of broadcast and online content. Around 2,500 BBC employees are working there, making a range of content for BBC News, BBC Sport, 5Live, CBBC, BBC learning, future media and technology, CBeebies, as well as local TV and radio.

In 2016 the BBC Three digital channel is due to join the neighbourhood too.

The BBC describes it as: “One of the most ambitious projects in our history, creating a new centre of excellence outside London for production, technology, development, training and digital media.

“From our base at MediaCityUK and regional offices in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle, BBC North supports locally produced, high quality content for every platform using the latest innovations in technology. We also create new content that will be enjoyed by audiences across the UK in the same way that BBC Wales makes great drama like Doctor Who or BBC Bristol produces landmark natural history series from the South West.”

The change has taken place in stages and the clip shows cables being pulled out of studios and whole sets being dismantled.

Update at 9pm 11/9: Thank you to Chris Hamilton, @chrishams, Social Media Editor at BBC News for tweeting me a link to his Storify today after reading this article.

He created it six months ago and it features thoughts and accounts of the changes at the BBC, including a video of memories, an audio journey of the last tea round and a year’s worth of pictures by Corrie Corfield via Flickr.

Want to know how current and former employees feel about the (now deleted) footage? Some tweeted their thoughts today:








If the comms team at the BBC would like to share a case study into their MediaCityUK comms, I’d love to feature it – do contact me.

If you’re curious about BBC North, there are tours for members of the public to see behind the scenes.

It’s not just the BBC who are going through change as the area is also home to ITV and various other studios, organisations and leisure venues. ITV completed the first phase of its move to MediaCityUK this year.

ITV now has 500 employees based there and will soon be joined by  Coronation Street, the world’s longest running continuing drama which is due to be produced from a state-of-the-art production centre, currently being built on a 7.7 acre site next to the Imperial War Museum North.

You can see how the University of Salford communicated its move to MediaCityUK in 2011 by checking out its series of video diaries, including internal comms manager Caroline Boyd.

How do you communicate change? If you have a story to share, do contact me, comment below or tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Post author: Rachel Miller

Further reading:
Ex-BBC journalist Mike Ramsden writes for my blog: From BBC to IC.


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