Tony Hosking's Stories from Cardiff Switching Centre


Unlike LO SWC, the regional SWCs and CTAs performed hot-switches and CAR-like duties. Though overall they were perhaps less busy than LO, it meant that during certain critical times, you really had to be on your toes!

In the days before S4C, BBC 1 Wales would frequently opt out from National BBC1 to broadcast Welsh programmes. Occasionally this happened on BBC2 also. So CF had its own continuity suite, complete with mixing desk, local caption generator, tape cartridge machines, Presfax, etc, etc.

One Saturday morning, having changed the continuity P as B tape and checked the desk as part of the daily 'routines' - yes you got to play in the conty! - we we slightly concerned that no continuity announcer had arrived. Normally he or she would arrive at least 30 minutes before a BBC Wales transmission, but initially we weren't too worried as this particular announcer had a reputation for lateness.

At 10 minutes to go, and after many frantic phone calls to CF BH to try to find the missing person or a replacement, the shift leader and I hatched a cunning contingency plan. We'd put a BBC Wales caption on the conty output and fire a standby tape cartridge with the standard "This is BBC Wales". Then we'd use the SWC cut-box (used for trade test opt-outs) to take VT who were to play out the first programme. It's not every day you get to run the network! We were all set at about 30 seconds to go - adrenalin pumping, 30 sec black and syncs, tape ready. Then the intercom suddenly squawked "Can I go into circuit please?" whereupon a just slightly breathless announcer greeted the people of Wales and nobody noticed a thing.

What a let-down...


During my short stint in Cardiff in 1979, we used to send VT down the CF-BS-LO contribution to LO CAR for BBC Cymru Schools broadcast some weekday mornings. The caption beforehand was tastefully described as "baby-sh*t yellow" by a well-known loud CF comms engineer!

Usually CAR would ask us to shift the local pulse-chain to minimise pulse disturbance for NC1's non-sync cut to Wales. There was a standing rule in CF that everyone knew - pulse chain A is inviolate, but chain B could be moved around. So checking VT2 was on chain B, off we went moving the whole chain relative to Network's master chain in LO. The CAR engineer and I did the "up a bit, back a bit" and were pretty pleased with ourselves when we achieved a close match to within a line or so at CAR. NC1 took the contribution and all was well.

Unfortunately, I had not noticed that VT4 was - unusually - on chain B also, probably from the previous evening. So of course their edits were totally messed up as 2" quad machines couldn't handle the disturbances.

The VT editor fellow generated +12dB audio down the phone and went through all eight shades of 100% saturated colour bars as he started his work over again...

Tony Hosking
13th April 2005

(See also Chris Dale's Cardiff Switching Centre stories)