Visit to the Central Technical Area, BBC Cymru Wales

Visit to the Central Technical Area, BBC Cymru Wales

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By Hywel Wiliam,
Thursday, 29th September 2016
Members visiting the Master Control Room, BBC Wales
Members visiting the Master Control Room, BBC Wales

"I hope we don't have another General Election, at least for the next few years, but given the present political situation, who knows?"  This view is understandable from Dave Howard's perspective.  As BBC Cymru Wales' Technology Operations Manager, such large scale events pose significant logistical challenges.  "For the most recent Assembly Elections we hired around 20 satellite trucks, and we had to split our C1 TV studio to provide separate feeds for BBC and S4C."

He was speaking to Wales Centre RTS Members during a fascinating visit to the BBC's Cardiff Master Control Room on the 28th September.  BBC Wales' present aging HQ is no longer suitable for the demands of modern broadcasting, such as full HD transmission.  BBC 1 Wales is in HD, although the sound is in stereo rather than Dolby 5.1, while BBC 2 Wales is currently still only a standard definition service.  "We can't justify the upgrade investment at our present location", Dave explained.  BBC Wales is due to move to state of the art premises in Cardiff City Centre by 2019.  The present site, Broadcasting House in leafy Llandaff, was built in 1966.  "We could be fully IP based in the new building, and our staff will need a deep knowledge of IT as well as traditional TV skills."

In addition to satellite trucks and fixed lines, the BBC now uses a variety of other technologies to bring signals back to base.  For the recent Wales Euro Soccer Team homecoming bus tour, BBC Wales used wireless multiplex transmission (WMT) technology, in which six mobile SIM cards are grouped in a camera to provide portable live HD video over a mobile phone connection.  This system works fine under normal conditions, but understandably there were large crowds to welcome the successful Wales team home.  "The fans were all on Facebook or Twitter, and our pictures were breaking up quite a bit, but it was great to cover the excitement of the day."


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