Please note, this tour is no longer available but there is a new BBC Broadcasting House Tour.
BBC Television Centre in London has regular tours where you can find out more about the BBC and what goes on behind the scenes at these busy TV studios.
What Will I See?BBC Television Centre is a working building so no two tours are ever the same. You may see some famous faces but there are no guarantees.
You should be able to see the newsroom, visit some actual TV studios where programs are made, look into a dressing room, and also try out the interactive studio.
How Long Is The Tour?
Tours last between 1.5 and 2 hours.
Can I Take Photos?
You are allowed to bring a camera, but be aware there are only a few places photography is allowed as this is a working building. Your tour guides will always tell you when it's OK to take photos.
How To BookTours are open to anyone aged 9 years and over when accompanied by an adult. (There is a separate children's tours aimed at 7-12 year olds.)
There are 12 tours a day, Monday to Saturday, but you do need to book ahead. It is not possible to just 'turn up' and get on a tour. Some of the people I met on the tour had booked months in advance and others booked less than a week before.
Book online or call 0370 901 1227 (from outside the UK: +44 28 9053 5904)
BBC Television Centre Tour ReviewYou meet your tour guides at the Reception of Television Centre and there can be up to 20 people in each tour group.
Security is important, so a register is taken and then everyone has to put bags through a scanner and go through a body scanner too, like the ones at the airport. It only takes a few minutes and then you get your Pass to wear and you're inside the BBC!
The tour guides work in twos and take turns giving information and answering questions. It's also useful as they can keep an eye on the front and the back of the group so no-one gets lost. You may laugh but the building is huge and you soon feel disorientated. (The guides told us new staff often get lost.)
The tour proper starts with an introductory film in a meeting room next to the Newsroom. The guides I met were friendly and made us all laugh with their 'insider' news and gossip and we all felt comfortable asking questions.
Most of the group were from the UK, but those who weren't they had some really interesting questions, such as, "Who owns the BBC?" This is something we take for granted in the UK but it's actually really unusual. The BBC has to remain impartial so they are not owned by the government or a private company but by the British public. Everyone who has a TV has to buy a TV licence every year and it's this money that funds the BBC.
After this introduction the tour winds its ways around the building, going upstairs and downstairs, down long corridors, and through many doors. We saw a couple of TV studios: one was empty and one was being prepared for a TV show that day and it was good to have that contrast; and the access to be in an empty studio and let our imagination fill the space while we were told of the famous shows that had been recorded there. (It all depends on the time of day you do your tour but you may even see some of a show being recorded. See : Tickets for TV Shows.)
The tour guides really do know their stuff and we learned about the BBC as a company, about the history of TV, the architecture of Television Centre, and some of the famous shows that have been recorded there. The only downside might be if you haven't been brought up with the BBC you may not know about all of the shows they mention and some of the famous names but you can tell which ones are impressive by the reaction of the group.
Why The Sweets?
We noticed jelly bean and chocolate dispensers throughout the building, which initially seemed a little odd in an adult working environment, but it was explained to us that in this fast-paced workplace, staff can need a quick energy boost and grabbing some candy is quicker than making a coffee!
No PuppiesYou'll visit a dressing room and we discussed the different guests who may have used the room, plus we gossiped about the unusual requests from some 'divas'. The BBC is always willing to consider requests but only pays for the basics so will present a bill to the artist if they ask for too much. (So no 'box of puppies' for Mariah Carey!)
As you know, we talk about the weather a lot in the UK so it was a treat to visit the area where the forecast studios are and we saw a weatherman giving the forecast in front of a blue screen. A few in the group even got to try the chroma key/blue screen technology for themselves.
The finale of the tour is the interactive studio where the group got to try making the news and a game show so someone had to be the News Presenter and then the game show needed contestants while others worked the sounds and pictures. It was a lot of fun and everyone left happy and laughing.
Before being returned to Reception, our guides took us for a quick trip to the BBC shop, which is inside Television Centre so you can only get there when on a tour. There's a good selection of DVDs and books plus toys, pens, mugs, etc. on all the most popular shows, and it's nice to have a souvenir of your visit.
It was a really fun tour and, as no two tours can ever be the same in such a busy working TV centre, I'd be happy to take the tour again and again.
The writer was provided with a complimentary tour for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.