Radio Outside Broadcast Rate Card

Radio OB Rate Card pp












Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

This Radio Outside Broadcast Rate Card from 1995/6 shows the charges of various radio resources to be charged to programmes. This dates from the John Birt era of Producer Choice, and the sell off of BBC Resources.

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing the document.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook group:

Peter Poole: ‘Producer choice generated a lot of paperwork. At the end of the studio session all tapes and batteries etc. used were noted. This was charged to the production. Then the office staff spent time invoicing it. Other effects were that radio studio 1 became too expensive for radio use! Crew sizes were reduced to the minimum. If you needed extra help the production had to pay. They would be charged a minimum 4 hours crew cost. Paying £100 for 30 minutes work was not popular. In the end the floor manager often put the mics on the guests. At a time when Pebble Mill was trying to save money John Birt found many ways to waste it. At great expense all staff were instructed to travel to London for a PR event. This was run by an independent company. This event was about “The New BBC”. I never went to it, but the general opinion was a total waste of time. I did go on a customer care course. This gave me vital information about how to answer the phone. Another course was about marketing. More vital information for resources staff.’

Gordon Astley: ‘I remember it was cheaper to buy albums than hire them from the BBC library. The albums then just went………??’

News Gathering Technology

Technology at PM












Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission.

Thanks to Pete Simpkin for making this cutting from the BBC in-house newspaper, Ariel, available.

The article from 1985 is about how the BBC Micro computer has been helping the editing and transmission of News stories shot on portable single camera, instead of on other formats, like reversal film.

The following information was added by the members of the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Stuart Gandy: ‘I remember it well. The BBC Micro was put to good use here and was a software control system that was in use at Pebble Mill well before many of the later systems that have become the norm over the years. The system was designed and built mostly by John Macavoy and Ian Sykes and the other engineers who were based in G41, who at that time mostly concentrated on the Post Prod systems. (I’m not sure if we even called it post prod then?)’

Keith Brook: ‘John Macavoy told me that when the ‘boffins’ at SP&ID talked to him about interfacing his system with the 1″ machines, all they could come up with was a system controlled by relays!! They were decades behind John. Brilliant man!!’ SP&ID stood for ‘Special Projects and something Department. It was a bunch of technicians who designed equipment in-house for the BBC. They made vision mixers, edit suites and stuff like that before the era of buying gear off the shelf. Eventually, I suppose the regime of the awful John Birt closed them down because they couldn’t afford to pay an accountant. They designed the original vision mixing desks in both studios. They also designed the successor to the ‘Studio A’ type desk that was installed at TC and Oxford Road. It was a disaster and kept cutting to black. Not good for live ‘Brass Tacks’.’

Ray Lee: ‘I think a confusion of 2 names for the department have been made. Originally when colour started there were insufficient engineers to equip all the studios. A specialist department was set up called P&ID which was for Planning and Installation Department (known by some as Panic and Indecision Department) . All the first generation colour equipment was made in house by the BBC’s own manufacturing unit, which was part of the Research and Development unit. Later I think after the Phillips report in the late 70’s some re-organisation was done and the P&ID was renamed SCPD. (Studio Capital Projects Department). By this time the BBC was buying in some commercially produced equipment, and quite a lot of BBC designs were licenced out to third party companies.’

Stuart Gandy: ‘As well as SCPD, which was mostly concerned with TV there was also a section called RCPD, which was Radio Capitol Projects. At Pebble Mill, a projects department was set up in the mid 80s and run by John Macavoy and Ian Sykes, together with other engineers who rotated through. They were responsible for many of the bigger home done projects as well as becoming very adept at making the scoring systems for most of the game and quiz shows we did. I can remember working on a few of these quiz systems which usually consisted of a computer, often the BBC micro connected to big buttons for the contestants to press and lamps to show the scores.’

Colin Fearnley – editing with an axe!

Colin Fearnley 1986

Photo by Paul Scholes, no reproduction without permission.

Colin Fearnley worked at Pebble Mill in VT.

There is a story about why he has an axe in the head!  Colin had been working on a youth programme with Janet Street Porter, circa 1986.  Apparently it was a very quick turnaround, and a review of the programme said that it looked as if it had been edited by a mad axeman. This spawned a whole host of axe jokes! Colin was probably VT play in man. [See comment below from Colin Fearnley correcting this detail!]

Thanks to Tim Savage for remembering the story of the axes.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Group:

Paul Colbert: ‘Could have been Reportage or Rough Guides, both of which I worked on as series Director in Manchester with most of the production team commuting on trains and planes to Manchester. Editor J S Porter, with Rachael Purnell and Sharon Ali. Tough times for the production team, even harder than working with Roger Castles on The Clothes Show! London Luvvies!’

Jane Mclean: ‘Was it Behind the Beat? God I HATED working on that programme.’

Dawn Trotman: ‘Behind the Beat. I remember editing that. Crazy hours and Janet Street Porter constantly screaming down the phone. I think we edited it in mechanical workshop? Lovely directors though but stressed.’

Jane Mclean: ‘The stuff of nightmares Dawn – every single aspect – and I mean every! JSP never once came to Brum (thank god) and in the end I refused to answer the phone!’

Dawn Trotman: ‘It was actually a creative time. I worked with some very adventurous directors who did try to re invent the wheel and suceed. Tough going but good times. Not that JSP was of any value but she did surround herself with the best in the business no fool in that respect just very shouty!’

Ian Collins: ‘The Mad Axman nickname was actually given to Jim Hiscox who was the editor working on “Behind The Beat”. I think Colin was the assistant and the axe was added well after the picture was taken.’

Dawn Trotman: ‘I beg to differ Ian. The Mad axeman was originally given to John Bland for a film he cut in about 1983 or 4 . It was set in a military defence barracks very strange ! Can’t remember the name, I think the producer was a Gareth ? And John ended up with a review which said cut by the mad axeman on acid ! We keep the cutting in his room at the end of the film corridor. But I didnt remember Jim being on Behind the Beat I remember Colin working on it . He used to tut over our inserts.’

Ian Collins: ‘Dare I suggest that there were two mad axe men :-)’

Paul Colbert: ‘Surely John Birt was the Mad Axe Man?’