This page contains a fairly random collection of items: mainly images that I've referred to over the years in Usenet articles etc.
BBC radio network failure
On Sunday 5th August 2007 BBC Radio suffered a major breakdown in its national distribution network, affecting the Corporation's FM and AM national radio networks over much of the country. Many networks only stayed on air at all by using the last-ditch 'Rebroadcast Standby' (RBS) system, which has never been used before on this scale. This system, in which each main FM transmitter relays the next one down towards London, reduces audio quality to hissy mono and throws things like RDS traffic information out of the window. In Radio 1's case, the RBS didn't work either, causing the network to go silent over most of the country for about 35 minutes.
I've noticed a general deterioration in the BBC's technical reliability in recent years, and what seems to be an ever-increasing number of programmes spoiled by technical faults. With this in mind, I made a request to the Corporation under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) for:
"copies of any memoranda, reports or other documents relating to the widespread failure of BBC
Radio's national distribution network (feeding analogue transmitters) which occurred
during the afternoon today, Sunday 5th August 2007."
In response to this I received a covering letter and copies of two emails. The latter were subjected to redactions.
- Covering letter
- Email 1. This is from the Broadcast Duty Manager (BBC Radio's most senior shift engineer) on the date of the incident and contains an extract from the RaILS log, whatever that is, and some explanatory notes.
- Email 2. This one came the day after from Andy Baker, Controller, Operations & Technology, W1
Technology Group. In it he seeks a full report on what happened.
Intrigued to know what Andy Baker would learn when he received his report, I made a second FoIA request for a copy of it. This is what I got in response, which was again subjected to redactions:
- Covering letter
- Timeline - shows sequence of events as recorded by the Broadcast Duty Manager, Duty Technology Manager and Cable & Wireless.
- Post Incident Review from Siemens. This notes that "It cannot be under-estimated how this event impacted the BBC. It has caused numerous complaints to the BBC over a number of days, and a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act". Whoops!
- Here are some images scanned from Engineering for Colour, an ITA Engineering Information booklet from 1970 (engineered in black and white):
- You can download Engineering for Colour as a PDF (12 MB)
- The correct way to fit a ferrite ring to a cable to maximise common-mode rejection
- What I think was the BBC's SHF link site at Bardon Hill, Leicestershire
- Assorted small Jones plugs
- A picture of four different masts and towers at Kirk o'Shotts taken in about 1977
- One of the OB cameras used to shoot the BBC drama series Survivors in 1975. This was the first BBC drama to shoot outdoors on videotape instead of film – from the seventh of 13 episodes!
- Until 1990, the IBA used to broadcast a weekly programme of Engineering Announcements for the television trade. In the final days these went out at 5.45 am on Tuesday mornings on Channel 4. Here are the last three, in Ogg Theora format:
© Copyright 2006-7 Richard Lamont.