University of Birmingham Film Reel 1978

Photos by Richard Airbright, no reproduction without permission














This can of 16mm film was bought in an auction lot. It is a positive colour print from Rank Film Laboratories, of some rushes of Birmingham University, Faculty of Science, care of BBC Pebble Mill. There are 1010 feet of rushes, and the note is dated 8/9/78.

Does anyone know what the rushes would have been shot for, and how might they have ended up in an auction lot?

Thanks to Richard Airbright for sharing the photos.

The following comment was added on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Malcolm Hickman: ‘When Producer choice started, I had to charge each unit according to the space they occupied. Film Unit had rooms of rushes in cans. I asked why they were kept after the film was finished and transmitted. They said that they wanted to keep them in case they wanted to recut the film. I eventually persuaded them to get rid of them and save the space. I’m not sure what Mike Aldridge would have done with them. Possibly just junked them. Not sure what this particular can was from.’








Producer Choice Explained


Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission














This article was published in the Midlands News, the internal newsletter, in June 1992. Roger Waugh, the Head of Resources sets out to explain the principles behind, Director General, John Birt’s ‘Producer Choice’.

‘Producer Choice’ split off the Resource departments from Production, and resulted in mass redundancies in Resources. Redundancies are hinted at in this article, but the position wasn’t clear in 1992.

Thanks for Stuart Gandy for sharing this edition of Midlands News.

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

Carolyn Davies: ‘Still commonly used in inverted commas to mean ‘complete disaster’…’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘I remember I had to establish each business units’ asset size so they could be charged. A mammoth task.’

Mark Holdstock: ‘I couldn’t decide who was the worse DG. Birt or Mark Thompson producer choice was a completely stupid idea. When they started charging for record loans, we quickly worked out that it was much cheaper to pop into town to HMV and buy the disc.’

Steve Peacock: ‘Idiotic and divisive policy. Decimated the craft base and did us producers no favours at all.’

Caroline Feldon Parsons: ‘Producer Choice. Leading to much less actual sensible choice than a producer had before it was implemented. Lovely.’

Julia Versluis: ‘Until you had to pay for a service and discover it was three times more expensive this way.’

Julie Hill: ‘I jumped ship before that hideous “initiative” was enforced. Lost out on any redundancy though!’

Vicky King: ‘I remember it well, working in HR, one of the biggest change programmes I’ve worked on.’




Jenny Brewer talks about her BBC career

Jenny Brewer talks about her career at BBC Pebble Mill from pebblemill on Vimeo.

Specially recorded interview with Jenny Brewer talking about her career at the BBC. Jenny began working as a secretary in the late 1960s, and ended up as a commissioning manager in the late 1990s. Much of Jenny’s production work was in the English Regions Drama Department, headed up by David Rose in the 1970s.

Jenny Brewer











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

Jean Palmer: ‘I worked for Jenny when she was a commissioning manager up in the posh offices in the fifth floor.’

Gordon Astley: ‘..I think I remember Jenny in the BBC Club’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened……” I had just joined the BBC !!!’

Judith Markall: ‘I remember Jenny and she mentions Eric Holmes! I was his Secretary and I couldn’t have worked for a nice man!!!!!! Much remembered.’

Radio Recording and TX Report 1996

Radio Recording and TX Report 1996

Radio Report 2 PP










































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

Thanks to Peter Poole for sharing this Radio Recording and Transmission form from 1996.

This form was used to log details about studio radio recordings and transmissions of those recordings. It dates from 1996, when John Birt was Director General, it was the era where BBC Resources was split off from production, and ‘Producer Choice’ came in.

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………??’