A virtual online ‘tour’ of the controversial £100 million BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) headquarters has been condemned by staff, with one saying the video is “Stalinist”, and another who worked for many years at the corporation declaring that the new building is a symbol of elitism, it has emerged.
The cost of the structure in Cardiff’s Central Square should be set against the price of the annual licence fee, paid by everyone, a senior figure who worked in several departments proclaimed.
He told The Eye: “The key thing is the £150 plus annual licence fee, and the significance of the fact that the neighbours of the BBC in Central Square are Butetown & Grangetown, two of the most underprivileged areas of Wales.
“It’s (the new building is) for the privileged amid a cost of living crisis for ordinary people.”
Another who works now in the Central Square offices, said: “”This (the online tour) is a Stalinist view of history. They have airbrushed out all the controversies around the new building, and that it was so late. A creative buzz here is lacking, as we had in the old BH”.
A further employee told us: “Nothing WORKS here!”.
Our own Editor Phil Parry, who held roles at the old Llandaff headquarters of BBC CW, stated: “This is unbelievable. Staff are telling me they are angry they didn’t move in before the lockdown, and that moving there was just a way of cutting jobs. NONE of this is reflected in the video!”.
The long delay in moving in was a particular concern.
Anxious staff told us of their deep worry that they still had not taken up residence, two years after it was handed over, BEFORE the lockdown was imposed.
BBC CW received the keys to the new headquarters in April 2018, and staff were told it would take 18 months to fit out the building, but several months after that date passed, equipment was still in the ‘testing’ phase, and officials were unable to say when broadcasting would start, with the extraordinary delay having a severe knock-on effect for other broadcasters in Wales, such as S4C which was due to take a number of desks for workers.
The potential for giving it as a reason for axing staff, has also been highlighted by people inside.
Personnel in one department, said to us they believed that the new building only had room for a “fraction” of the numbers then on the payroll, and feared that the move was a precursor to merging them with another area.
During the lockdown many executives had to work from home anyway, making large parts of Central Square unnessecary.
One senior manager instructed an employee to work from home even if the Wi-Fi was not broadcast quality, with the words “don’t worry just as long as it’s audible”, and The Eye’s satirist Edwin Phillips made fun of the whole business.
But officials clearly showed their approach to the media’s questions about the headquarters, in the attitude towards queries about the audience figures for BBC CW Radio Wales (BBC CW RW) which is broadcast from there.
One listener was told: “We are not… obliged to supply information…”, and Mr Parry has in the past been refused an interview with Director of Nations at the BBC and Director of BBC CW, Rhodri Talfan Davies.
Mr Parry, was told by the Press Office in a lengthy email exchange over more than six months, that Mr Davies would be available for interview. Question areas were provided, and the BBC CW official was told the interview could be conducted over the telephone. Mr Parry was then informed that an interview would not, in fact, be granted.
Yet ironically, it’s been announced that the new building was designed to make the corporation more open.
Mr Davies said excitedly: “Central Square is all about opening up… the fantastic location means that we’ll be more accessible.
“As part of the drive to ‘open up’, inclusion is a key part of the design of Central Square throughout.”
Mr Davies also appeared to be positive about the timescale for officially ‘opening up’ the new headquarters.
He told staff: “On Central Square, we are now in an intense period of testing and training – it’s a hive of activity…”.
Meanwhile, the plight of the old building became a source of concern.
Mr Parry, who worked as a journalist there for 23 years, said that it was a “sad sight”, while a former presenter on BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) declared: “Llandaff was an ideal location”.
The one-time RW afternoon DJ, Mike Flynn, who was described on Wkipedia as a “… main presenter for the first decade on air … who hosted a show each weekday until 1989”, has condemned what has happened.
He told The Eye: “There was plenty of potential in the location to absorb both the new rented site and the new operations in Cardiff Bay. The BBC has been playing the money game for years.
“Llandaff was a wonderful creative place destroyed by mismanagement. Sadly most of the BBC output these days is garbage. Rhodri Talfan Davies should resign.”
Iolo ap Dafydd, who was a television presenter in the old building, declared on Twitter: “(It) Probably could have been renovated rather than demolished. Yet to be seen how new developments impacts Llandaf. City centre looks particularly grim“.
Weather forecaster Sian Lloyd said: “I used to love it there (BH Llandaff). Sigh”.
Newsreader Huw Edwards stated on the social media site: “Quite strange to see the iconic (hashtag) BBC Building in (hashtag) Llandaff being raised (sic) to the ground”.
Obviously more than simple misspelling has alarmed staff at the new Cardiff HQ of BBC CW, with one saying a video about it is “Stalinist”, another announcing that ‘nothing works’, and a further senior figure proclaiming that it was a symbol of elitism…
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