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R BEEB'S 27HR MARATHON TO SEE IN MILLENNIUM; 1,500 work on pounds 87million bonanza.

THE BBC will celebrate the millennium with a 27-hour live TV broadcast costing a staggering pounds 87 million - the biggest single event the corporation has ever covered.

More than 50 presenters and 1,500 staff will be involved in the marathon coverage around the world. Newscaster Peter Sissons, who has scrapped plans for his own party on the night to be at the BBC's London HQ, said: "Since I started working in TV 35 years ago, this is the biggest single night to cover. I think the BBC are right to throw so much weight behind it.

"I do not think any broadcaster worth his or her salt would want to turn down the opportunity to take part in it."

Other big names likely to work on New Year's Eve include Desmond Lynam, Michael Parkinson, Gaby Roslin, Six O'Clock News presenter Fiona Bruce and Nine O'Clock News anchorman Michael Buerk.

The BBC will share the cost of the coverage with 57 other countries to produce the 2000 Today programme, starting at 10am on December 31.

Executive Avril McCrory said: "The global coverage is pooled with other countries and will cost the BBC less than pounds 1 million."

The programme will record the first dawn of the new century breaking over Chatham Island in the Pacific Ocean - and the last over Western Samoa.

There will be cameras in every corner of the UK and home coverage will include the opening of London's Millennium Dome in Greenwich.

There will also be live broadcasts of Britain's last sunset of the 20th century over Land's End and the new dawn at the White Cliffs of Dover.

The BBC also hopes to mark the arrival of Britain's first millennium baby.

BBC director of programming Alan Yentob said: "2000 Today represents the most ambitious outside broadcast the BBC has ever done."

Will Wyatt, chief executive of BBC Broadcast, said: "We will capture the mood, create the excitement and prepare our audience for the new millennium."

Coverage will include pictures of celebrations on the top of Table Mountain in South Africa and in New Zealand a Maori mountain-top call for unity, led by singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

There will also be visits to the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids and Stonehenge.

TV pictures of the Earth will be beamed from the Russian space station Mir.

BBC staff will be paid a sliding scale of bonuses for working on the night, with those on duty at midnight getting up to pounds 500.

Throughout the year 2000 an extra pounds 100 million will be spent on special programmes for the new century.

Other big projects include The Century Speaks on radio, which will quiz people about their memories of the 1900s and an educational programme, History 2000, on BBC2.

Millennium Music Live will be a UK-wide celebration of live music for the year 2000, which will take place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend next year.

Even EastEnders will get in on the act - with the new title sequence featuring the Dome on it's trademark London map.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Quinn, Thomas
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 15, 1999
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