Power Cuts

In the early 2000s, the power cuts at BBC Television Centre seemed to become something of a tradition.  Here's a minute-by-minute guide to what was happening on-screen during the 2000 incident:

Power Cut 2000

Tuesday 20 June 2000

5.00pm (approx) Power cut hits West London. Fire alarms at Television Centre triggered, and building evacuated. A skeleton crew stays on to keep services running. BBC News 24 output continues as normal.

6.00 BBC News 24 joins BBC1's Six O'Clock News with Huw Edwards.

6.15 (approx) Huw apologises for the 'gloomy' lighting and warns us he could go off air at any moment.

6.25 (approx) The generator catches fire! The Six O'Clock News goes off air during a report on Euro 2000. On BBC1 analogue (control switched to Birmingham) most regions go to their news programmes early; BBC South East goes to a repeat of Dad's Army. BBC1 digital (both satellite and terrestrial) show UK Direct, a standby programme in place of UK Today. Meanwhile, News 24 goes completely blank. Network Radio services are also affected.

6.30 (approx) BBC2 analogue (also controlled from Birmingham) is showing a Michael Palin travel documentary in place of scheduled programmes

6.50 BBC1 analogue: Regional programmes finish, most regions abruptly joining Dad's Army. South Today, on the other hand, has about five minutes' worth of trailers for Radio Solent.

6.55 BBC1 digital: UK Direct finishes, immediately followed by brief weather report read by the continuity announcer. Couple of trailers, then Euro 2000 coverage starts a few minutes early. BBC1 analogue: not quite so slick. Most regions, having joined Dad's Army, abruptly switch to the Euro 2000 opening titles as per digital, but about twenty seconds late. Looked like analogue and digital continuity had no idea what each other was doing.

7.35 BBC News 24, having been blank for over an hour changes to a widescreen Test Card W. Unfortunately there's a load of writing stuck on top, so we can't see who's winning. Does this mean the BBC have lost the rights to show noughts and crosses coverage?

7.45 Test card changes to a generic, stretched BBC News logo with 'NEWS 24' overlaid on it, and superimposed on top the same rather naff-looking message, although slightly amended.

8.00 BBC News 24 suddenly switches to BBC World output, showing a recorded news bulletin from earlier, with Stephen Cole, while for the next hour various 'BBC' and 'Recorded' captions appear, disappear and move about the screen. The source output is 4:3 but cropped to 16:9, losing large amounts of picture.

8.30 BBC Choice's Liquid News is a repeat of yesterday's programme. BBC News 24/BBC World show Talking Movies, during which News 24's output switches to 14:9 in a 16:9 frame.

8.55 Talking Movies ends, BBC World continuity shown on BBC News 24. Their 10-second countdown clock is shown too early, and the BBC World ident remains on screen for about 45 seconds.

9.00 BBC News 24 continues simulcasting with BBC World, but now with a live bulletin read by Gavin Esler from a makeshift studio at the BBC's Westminster centre. At approx 9.15 a report about the power cut is shown. The news is followed at 9.25 by a World Weather forecast with Helen Young.

9.30 BBC News 24 and BBC World show an edition of Click Online.

10.00 BBC1 joins BBC News 24 and BBC World for the Nine O'Clock News (sic) presented by Michael Buerk from Westminster. BBC1 shows it in normal 4:3 format, while News 24 continues in its 14:9 format.

10.25 The Nine O'Clock News finishes, and the regions go to their late bulletins on BBC1. Newsroom South East has the opening music but no titles, just Gillian Joseph looking uncomfortable. This is followed by a normal UK weather forecast with David Braine. News 24 takes another World Weather forecast.

10.30 BBC2's Newsnight is presented by Kirsty Wark from the One/Six/Nine O'Clock News studio.

11.00 Gavin Esler is back reading the latest news on BBC News 24/BBC World.

11.05 BBC1 analogue and digital services are showing the same continuity; normally they were separate at this time. This means continuity on analogue is in 14:9 mode (normally it would be 4:3).

12.00 midnight Andrew Harvey reads the next bulletin from Westminster, also taken by BBC2 in place of Despatch Box. BBC News 24 and BBC World continue sharing through the night.

Wednesday 21 June 2000

6.00am Breakfast News begins on BBC1, this is also taken by BBC News 24. (This would become a regular occurance from October of this year when Breakfast took over from Breakfast News).

9.00 BBC News 24 resumes its normal broadcasts.

From our YouTube channel, a compilation of clips from the evening of 20th June 2000, featuring quite a lot of BBC World breakfiller, a rare treat for viewers in the UK.

Power Cut 2001

The next BBC power failure took place just over a year later, at around 9.25pm on Saturday 30th June 2001. These captions were seen on analogue and digital satellite; unfortunately all BBC services on digital terrestrial had gone blank. Normal service was resumed for analogue terrestrial and digital satellite viewers within around 20-25 minutes; digital terrestrial viewers had to wait till around 10.10.

Next page: 2003