How to deliver OBs, live and late programmes

Independent production companies should liaise with the relevant delivery unit to arrange delivery. Find delivery contacts.

The topicality status of the programme will be determined by the commissioner at the point of commission. The definitions below are additionally used to define the requirements for live and late feeds and Outside Broadcasts (OBs).

Live: Whole programmes played from a live source eg OB, Studio, abroad.

Off-site: Programmes on tape but which are not delivering to the London Playout area. This could include programmes transmitting from a Nation or Region, an outside facilities house, another BBC building or an edit suite.

Quick turnaround/late edits: Programmes which are not live, but 'as-live', with material being turned round immediately and sent down the line from an OB, studio or edit suite.

Find out more about topicality codes.


Requirements for all live/late programmes and OBs

Different requirements may apply for programmes delivered by file. Please check with the relevant delivery contact for more information. Find out more about delivering by file.

It is the responsibility of the production to book all the required circuits.

The cost of lines, including communication circuits, and all other facilities deemed necessary by television for safe transmission of these programmes must be included in programme budgets.

The commissioned format must be known when booking feeds and arranging off-air recordings for delivery to Playout to ensure the correct circuits are booked and the right tape formats are used.

All programmes must supply a standby programme (see below) if requested.

All programmes playing live into Network Playout (Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services) should run their titles (or recorded pre-title sequences) from minus 1" starts. Note: This does not mean a clock should be present at -1" for ID purposes. Current best practice should be followed ie the clock should drop to black at -3" and early vision should appear at -1". This provides confirmation to both production and Playout that the correct title sequence is loaded and the machine is ready to go.

Live productions recording 'PasBs' for subsequent scheduled repeats must ensure that a clock is present at the start of the recording. If the only way of guaranteeing this is for the programme titles to be played from a longer cue when played in live, Ericsson will accept this.

Download the latest BBC specific technical delivery standards document (PDF).

Open Talkback should be offered to Playout (Ericsson) from 10 minutes pre transmission and maintained throughout the duration of the live programme. If production need to cut talkback at any time to maintain confidentiality it should be restored as quickly as possible. Open Talkback during transmission allows Playout to quickly assess whether the production team are aware and reacting to any problems which may occur, and to help identify where in the transmission chain the fault may lie. 

Download the Operational guidelines for live OBs and studios (PDF).

Currently production must ensure a master tape of the programme is made and delivered to BBC Archive after transmission. Details of file delivery for BBC Archive will be given when required.  

If required, production must ensure that an AS-11 of the programme is made and delivered to BBC within 24 hours after transmission. Independent production companies should liaise with the relevant delivery unit.  


Additional requirements: off-site

Production will ensure that a BBC representative is present throughout the transmission at the agreed contact location from where the programme is being transmitted.


Additional requirements: quick turn-round and late edits

If a programme is planning to deliver their transmission tape to the London Playout Area, but it is still being edited at one hour before transmission then production have to make arrangements to book lines and circuits from their edit suite to the Playout Area.

If the tape is not likely to arrive in the Playout Area 30 minutes before transmission, then the programme must transmit from the edit suite and production are required to remain in the edit suite for the duration of the transmission.

Late deliveries and fast turnaround programmes may be recorded direct to playout servers, contact Ericsson for more information.

Production will ensure that a BBC representative is present throughout the transmission at the agreed contact location from where the programme is being transmitted.


Points to consider

  • Programme material exchanged with other countries often has to be converted, not just aspect ratio but also actual television standard eg USA television has approximately 30 frames per second and a colour system called NTSC. In Europe we use approximately 25 frames per second and PAL.
  • Seek advice on what communications are appropriate for your live feed. This could be anything from a telephone connection to full reverse vision.
  • For a programme of sufficient complexity, it might be worth considering hiring an engineer from the Broadcast Engineering division of BBC Technology to be at the remote site. He/she would have arranged all of the circuits and communications and be able to organise and trouble-shoot on the day.
  • The term "Satellite" Bookings can be misleading. Unless you have a preference, international circuits are just as likely to be booked on terrestrial optical fibre. This is preferable as it does not have the awkward delay sometimes seen in two-way interviews.

Paperwork requirements

All paperwork is required as normal for live programmes with the exception of the Transmission form which is not currently required. See the delivery timeline for a complete list of paperwork required for standard productions.


Standby programmes

  • A standby programme (with recording report) may be requested for any programme with potentially sensitive content (eg programmes including plane crashes).
  • This may be agreed at the point of commission or at a later stage closer to transmission.
  • Standby programmes may also be required for live and quick turnaround programmes and for all programmes not transmitting from the Broadcast Centre Playout area (network programmes) or Scot TX (BBC Scotland programmes).
  • Standbys must be approved by TV Planning and Scheduling (or Commissioning and Scheduling for BBC Scotland programmes) and delivered as a non-topical programme.