Being a BBC broadcaster for a day

On Saturday 5 March, Thornbury North group had an interesting and enjoyable visit to the BBC Studios for radio and television in Bristol. A group of 16 of us were given a guided tour around the BBC Bristol complex, visiting radio and television studios, especially the Points West studio and also the roof garden from where the weather forecast is often broadcast.

We learnt about how sound effects are made to accompany TV or radio programmes, how newsreaders are cued in and updated. We also learnt of the skill of the weather person producing an unscripted forecast lasting anything from 30 seconds to 4 minutes! Rather them than us we decided!! Bristol Studios have worldwide reputation for the production of wildlife programmes and again it was fascinating to learn something of how programmes are filmed and edited ready for broadcasting. We were all amused to learn that the sound effect of a polar bear, walking across the ice, is made by squeezing a bag of custard powder!

To end the tour, we were let loose in a studio and given the opportunity to record our own short ‘spooky’ radio play and TV news and weather reports for the Points West programme. Various members took part as actors or presenters while others did the sound effects or controlled the video news reports and autocue. Our experience made us appreciate all the more how skilful the news presenters and weather forecasters are in presenting reports, while constantly beingfed messages/instructions via their earpieces.They make it look so natural and easy, when in fact a live broadcast is very complex and things could easily go wrong! After watching our own recorded news bulletin, once we stopped rolling about on the floor with laughter, those of us still gainfully employed decided not to give up their day jobs.

Our two guides with a background in acting or TV production were excellent and would highly recommend this tour.

Andrea Bates | NWR Thornby North