17 Nov 2015
The BBC Media City, Salford
22 members and wives/partners took a tour round the BBC studios at the Media City, Salford.
Our guides on the tour were Sarah and Luke who shepherded us carefully around the studios.
The first stop was the radio studio mainly used to broadcast 6 Music which differs from radios 1 and 2 in that it is music driven not personality - think Steve Wright.
Luke explained how each presenter can configure the desk to his/her particular requirements and whichever studio he/she uses, the desk will operate exactly the same way. He also related how the presenter has 5 screens to watch whilst broadcasting. These give information such as the music to be played and the order, the length of the introduction and the outplay so the presenter knows exactly how long to talk before and after each piece of music and avoid the deadly sin of "crashing the pips". The actual playlist is determined by the producer and is geared to the demographic of the intended audience.
Our second stop was an audio room where the can broadcast items like the Archers. Sarah took us some of the sound effects still used in spite of the
huge libraries of recorded effects available at the touch of a button. Flapping rubber gloves simulate birds in flight, Lego bricks dropped in a tumbler sound like ice cubes. To add realism to the broadcasts,
the actors will sit or stand as required, use a kitchen (with running water and a kettle), walk on the wooden floor or the carpeted area. There is a flight of stairs with each stair having stone, wood, carpet and iron sections to provide the proper sounds.
Sarah took us into the anechoic chamber lined with sound deafening foam panels. Broadcasting from in there can sound like being outdoors because there are no echoes of any kind. Sarah ran from one end to the other screaming and it sounded just like someone taking a bungee jump, her scream fading away as she ran. The attention to detail to produce realism as much as possible was astounding.
We passed though a Green Room (which isn't green and no-one is sure how it acquired its name) to an instantly recognisable television studio (someone was humming the theme tune as we walked in).
It looked nothing like it does on Saturday, for any of the three live broadcasts shown. The two hundred studio lights hanging above our heads was impressive. They generate so much heat that the presenters have to wear matt make-up to mask the glare from sweaty faces. The camera used is a wide-format one which slightly distorts the picture and thus everyone gains 10 lbs when on screen. One detail that stood out was that the studio floor is repainted every two days.
The last stop was the original "Breakfast" studio with a short broadcast from Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin As they were broadcasting, their studio suffered a "power cut" so Bill and Louise asked for volunteers to take their place and someone to do the weather forecast. Malcolm Howlett did a good job with the forecast but it looked strange to see him standing in front of a blank screen but pointing to the weather map on the monitors. Peter Murgatroyd and Shirley Boardman did a creditable job of the presenting,
reading from the autocue and handing over to the weather man (who doesn't have a script!!!)
Everyone found the tour entertaining and informative, well worth the visit.