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Rkolsen3,305 posts since 20 Jan 2014
BBC World News
Things tend to only been replaced when they’ve literally broken beyond repair or there’s a pot of money for a trial and a region benefits from it. There’s very much an “if it ain’t broke” mentality and the regions do very well keeping ancient kit going. Before ViLoR most local radio stations were using Mark III desks, a classic BBC in-house designed mixing desk. As I understand it, they were all constructed and deployed centrally starting in the late 70s-80s as local radio stations came on stream. (There was a Mark IV but only a few sites got them). These wonderful desks soldiered on right up until the end. However the engineers keeping them going had to form a very vibrant group within the BBC trading spares, parts and components. A few stations were left with only one operational desk by the very end.
TV isn’t quite the same but there’s still a make do and mend philosophy when it comes to things like Astons. When the thirty year old one I use broke recently (the power supply failed - which isn’t really surprising after thirty years 24/7 use) we scouted around and found a couple being thrown out from BBC Cardiff. Replaced power supply, threw the switch and it’s back in daily use again.

It’s a rash generalisation but kit built in that era is incredibly resilient and easy to fix if you can find the spares.
Kit purchased in the 2000s, tends instead to be PC based and is much more dependent on the quality of the PC it’s based on, the operating system and whether it’s updateable and supported.

Sounds like there needs to be an internal craigslist for BBC employees looking for parts.
Don’t let anyone treat you like you’re a VO/SOT when you’re a PKG.
Steve in Pudsey10,872 posts since 4 Jan 2003
Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
There are a few MkIII desks still going outside the BBC btw:

A community station that took over Radio Stoke's old building and kept the kit

Pier Studios, a recording studio that bought the old Radio Brighton building

*Pier studio session - 5 by Curtis James, on Flickr

And Whipps Cross Hospital Radio have a couple of the Neve manufactured variants which were a lot more compact than the BBC built ones.

Write that down in your copybook now.
Spencer gave kudos
harshy6,513 posts since 24 Mar 2001
That’s a fair point but it shouldn’t have got to the stage where regions are using equipment too old that it should have been retired years ago.

But as mentioned, newer equipment is just as prone to failure. I remember reading in the nineties that HTV West had invested in a new computer system that was so unreliable they had to do a complete rehearsal of the main evening bulletin before it and if they deviated from the planned running order at any point it would completely crash. Bob Monkhouse always used to say that when they started The Golden Shot from the old ATV studios in Birmingham it was a technical nightmare because the equipment was so antiquated, and then when they moved to new studios if anything it got worse as nobody knew how the new equipment worked.

Like any high-pressured, fast-turnaround job it's bound to be a bit frantic behind the scenes and there are probably myriad things on any news bulletin that have been scrambled together at the last minute, and sometimes the technology will fail and they'll have to bodge something together. Most of the time we don't notice it. But the important thing is to get on air.

It's not fair to assume there's "no quality control" and someone is just lazily pressing buttons without caring.

Well if anything it shows the current backup graphics are indeed the old ones...
denton1,057 posts since 4 Jan 2003

As well as the Mark IV anything refurbished or moving since the early 200s and until ViLor got Calrec digital desks. These have all been replaced by ViLoR but in sites like Nottingham, Leeds and Hull would have been installed a the same time as the TV installation.

It's not just the Beeb BTW, I think Belfast's ILR Downtown Radio (lost track what it's called now) were still using their original 1976 desks into this decade ?

Still called Downtown Radio. They have a sister station Cool FM which replaced Downtown on the Belfast FM frequency in 1990, while Downtown continues on AM in Belfast and FM across the rest of NI.

They were certainly using the original desks in 2000 when I left, and they looked ancient... as did the decor in the studios. I think they lasted a good few years after that.
thegeek5,524 posts since 1 Jan 2002
London London

And Whipps Cross Hospital Radio have a couple of the Neve manufactured variants which were a lot more compact than the BBC built ones.


The WXHR site is an order of magnitude more informative than the hospital's own website, but far less useful if you need to visit the hospital...

I posted this screengrab a little while ago of the Calrec desk in Millbank, still trooping on. Note the handy screwdriver.
Last edited by thegeek on 24 August 2019 5:37pm