Studio B – Peter Poole

Studio B 1990

Photos by Peter Poole, no reproduction without permission.

I probably took these photos some time about 1990. A few years later a major refurbishment took place updating all equipment except the sound desk. I did all I could to get a new mixer but due to lack of money it was not possible. The old mixer was kept in good working order by Pebble Mill’s excellent engineers. These men and women are the unsung heroes of the BBC and without them no programmes could be made or broadcast. During the gallery refurbishment we moved to Studio C’s gallery while still using Studio B’s studio area. When the studio area was refurbished the Foyer and later radio Studio 1 was used. Studio 1 was designed for classical music recording so had quite a long reverberation time. This was not ideal for a news programme and a few people asked why ‘Midlands Today’ sounded different. After another few years a new sound desk was fitted.

Deferred Facilities

If Television Centre or Broadcasting House encountered a major event and were unable to produce its network output Pebble Mill could take over. In the pre-digital TV and radio era network radio and TV would be routed via Pebble Mill’s Communications Centre and then distributed to the transmitter network. Radios 1 to 4 would be allocated their own studios to ensure network output was maintained. BBC 1 and 2 would also be allocated TV studios.  Studio B would become Network News. The regional presentation studio would become network TV presentation.

I worked on the rehearsals for Network News.  The News production team and presenters would travel from London to Pebble Mill. A full 6 pm News programme would then take place as if for real. The London team always seemed impressed by Pebble Mill’s professional staff and facilities. I don’t think Pebble Mill was ever called to do this for real.

Peter Poole

Mike Workman added the following information on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

‘just to clear up the contingency plans:
BBC One pres to come from Gallery-C and VT-B
BBC Two pres to come from Pres and VT-F
BBC Choice and Knowledge fold to One.
BBC World pres to come from an Edit C and VT-D
Domestic News was to set up in Studio-B (the Midlands Today studio)
BBC World News was to set up in Studio-A and VT-A
News 24 was to collapse into BBC World.
Weather used Birmingham’s regional weather facilities in Studio-B and Studio-B Annex/Pres.

I’ll also add, at the time lots more digital widescreen material was being made and transmitted by the BBC and Pebble Mill didn’t have any DigiBeta decks, so they had to order more of these to facilitate the Disaster Recovery Plans, Anything coming from B going to NET1 would be routed via A (which had been refurbed at this point) where it’d be ARCd to 14:9 Ratio (that horrid half widescreen thing the BBC did in the late 90s and early 00s) before transmission – this way it didn’t look like it was coming from an antiquated 13/14 year old gallery! BBC World got Studio and Gallery A, both widescreen which was funny as at this time BBC World wasn’t widescreen, Network BBC One was. The source for all this is somebody I know only as ‘deejay’ from a TV presentation site…’

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2 Comments

  • I worked on the deferred facilities many times. Presentation also came with the news team and managed to make things as difficult as possible as they kept changing their minds about lengths of trails. We always managed to get on and off air very well, never crashed.

  • Didn’t Pebble Mill take over during one of the Television Centre power problems (in 2000)…? Regions that couldn’t opt out having an episode of Dad’s Army instead of regional news? I seem to recall Paul Vanezis writing something about it, being at TC for work on a Doctor Who DVD release, and how (with back up batteries failing in presentation) TC were unwilling to alert PM and hand over control… I maybe conflating what he actually wrote into a bigger drama than it was, but…

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