1994 – 2008
The distinctive Channel 4 HQ at 124, Horseferry Road was designed by the Richard Rogers partnership and was constructed between 1991 and 1994. The building itself is an excellent example of ’90s architecture at its best – although it only cost £35m.
Channel 4 is not allowed by law to make its own programmes (it acts purely as a publisher) but when it opened the building did contain a small studio in the basement. The studio and associated post production facilities were run by a separate company – ‘124 Facilities’ – and the programmes made in it were produced by independent production companies – often being broadcast on networks other than C4. The studio had a working area of 50ft x 36ft (15m x 11m) with a gross size of 2,000 sq ft. It was equipped with five Philips BTS cameras, a saturated lighting rig and a 48 channel sound mixer. The studio was capable of seating an audience of up to 150 people.
Programmes made over the years included The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme (LWT), Loose Women (Granada), Paxman Meets Bill Gates (BBC), Filmspotting (HorsePower Films/FilmFour) and I Love The Seventies Christmas (BBC Manchester). The studio was also used for various business TV bookings and global satellite conferences.
Perhaps the best-known of its regular bookings was T4 – the Channel 4 weekend morning show. This used the studio between 1998 and 2006. The restaurant was also used by this show as a studio for links with performances and interviews being done in the studio downstairs. The T4 ‘brand’ was created by Andi Peters, who was C4’s commissioning editor for children and youth at the time.
T4 in the early days was often crewed by BBC staff doing a bit of moonlighting. Several years ago I asked in a BBC gallery whether anyone knew anything about the 124 studio and everyone apart from me had worked there at some point!
In 2006 T4 moved to Riverside Studios where it took over Studio 3 which was converted into a TV studio specially for the programme. This loss of such an important regular booking must have affected the 124 business plan considerably and in January 2008 the studio was closed. The official reason was that the studio could not afford to convert to HD. A slightly odd explanation at first sight since the demand for HD programming was not that great at that time. However, one assumes that most of the technical kit including the cameras dated from 1994 when the studio opened so would be well overdue for replacement.
Channel 4 moved its National Headquarters to Leeds in 2020 but it has retained this building as its London HQ. It also has offices in Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.