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BBC turns D.C. office into election hub

World News bureau undergoes transformation

At the BBC World News bureau in D.C., offices were turned into makeshift studios to accommodate the special election night broadcast.

Bureau chief Andrew Steele’s office, for instance, was transformed into an interview studio for the Arabic-language broadcast. Dozens of extra producers and reporters crowded into the modest space along with “tons” of extra equipment, Steele said, adding, “It’s the biggest operation I’ve ever seen.”

Why so much attention for the U.S. election? “This isn’t an American story or a British story,” he said. “It’s a world story.”

In the control room, organized improvisation prevailed as multiple monitors flashed images of different location crews and talent. Editor Diana Martin called out the sequence of shots as audio blared from the main studio set, where anchors chatted with guests.

From a remote location, a Republican pundit decried “the savagery” of press coverage of GOP veep nominee Sarah Palin. Back at the main studio, columnist Christopher Hitchens wasn’t sympathetic, reminding viewers of a prank phone call made to Palin last week. Pretending to be French president Nicholas Sarkozy, the caller said, “I can see Belgium from my house.”

Said Hitchens, “This is a woman who couldn’t tell the president of France from Inspector Clouseau.”

Former ABC News veteran Ted Koppel wandered in and out of the main studio, providing context and analysis as needed. “This is going to be a blowout,” he said after stepping out of the studio briefly. “Everything I’m hearing from all my colleagues, all the exit polls, it’s a blowout. But of course, we can’t say that” — until more voting polls close.

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