Moving 'Tom, Dick and Harry'
Broadcast Services Migration Manager
Satellite dish 'Dick' outside TVC Stage 5 prior to the newsroom extension being built.
Satellites have been used in the broadcasting industry since 1962 when the first picture signals were beamed from the US to the UK via the Telstar satellite. The signals were received in Goonhilly and carried up to Television Centre on cables to allow the BBC to deliver the first live broadcast from the US.
In 1989 regulations which only allowed BT to provide broadcast satellite links were abolished and the BBC bought its first dish (located on Broadcasting House) to provide satellite link-ups with radio cars. The second followed quickly, fondly named ‘Dick’, and was installed on the site now occupied by Stage 6 in Television Centre – ‘Dick’ was heavily used to provide coverage of the 1991 Gulf War. It was made famous by Going Live viewer Vicky Askew who included it in her renowned mural painted on the site of Stage 5. The third dish, ‘Tom’, and the fourth, you’ve guessed it, ‘ Harry’, arrived in 1991 to serve the increasing demand to receive content from satellite outside broadcasts.
A new home under construction for the BBC's satellite dishes.
At the time of the decision to close Television Centre, the site boasted 23 operational satellite dishes – it was no small challenge to identify how the services these provided could be seamlessly migrated to a new location. A suitable location outside the M25 was chosen to site eight new dishes, which together could fulfil the functions of their TVC predecessors. The W12 Programme team together with Atos drew up plans for a new building to house the dishes and associated equipment and set to work digging the foundations in a former car park.
This building structure was completed in February and since then Atos and S3Sat have been equipping a dedicated apparatus room and dish farm to serve the BBC. Across four nights in September and October all the BBC’s digital satellite (Sky and FreeSAT) television, radio and Red-Button content previously uplinked from Television Centre was migrated. Additionally Atos began to service the outside broadcast downlinks used for News, Nations and English Regions from the new site.
The migration of the European Broadcasting Union services to the new site on Tuesday 15th October brought to a close 23 years of satellite communications in Television Centre and represented the hitting of the most challenging and significant milestone of the Television Centre Closure Programme to date.
Many thanks to all involved – in particular to Pete Harrison, one of the original team of four to work in Satellite Operations (Sat-Ops) since it was formed in 1994 and who worked tirelessly to make this migration a success.
Ross Kemp is Broadcast Services Migration Manager