Recollections of BBC engineering from 1922 to 1997
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Transmitter Projects - Reminiscences

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Site Acquisition Section


The BBC's original television network used the Very High Frequency band and relatively few transmitter sites were needed to provide a service to most of the UK population.  In 1964 BBC television broadcasting started on the Ultra High Frequency band and, due to the nature of radio-wave propagation at these higher frequencies, many more transmitter sites were needed.  Land had to be found and acquired at suitable locations, so Site Acquisition Section was formed to carry out this work.  Organisationally, SAS was part of Transmitter Operations but functionally it delivered the first link in the chain which ultimately resulted in each new transmitting station coming on air.

SAS was involved in all BBC transmitter site finding.  As well as large numbers of UHF television sites, there were VHF and MF radio sites for Network and Local Radio services.

Each UHF site had to broadcast both BBC and ITA services so it was agreed that each organisation would acquire about half the total number of sites.  Once the site was acquired, the landlord (BBC or Independent Television Authority) provided the accommodation and common infrastructure (e.g. mast) and the tenant (ITA or BBC) installed equipment specific to their services.

By 1997, when BBC Transmission was privatised, it had 734 sites* and access to a further 550 sites provided by NTL (formerly ITA and then IBA - Independent Broadcasting Authority).  The BBC sites included those used for radio services, as well as television.

*Not including transmitting stations for World Service.

Recollections of Site Acquisition Section - By George Bath

These notes are not precise but are merely recollections to, hopefully, start the ball rolling. Thus amendments and additions, from anyone involved, past or present, are very welcome!

History and Office Locations.

Site Acquisition Section was formed as part of Transmitter Department in 1964 based in BH London. The small team comprised Maurice Clough (HSAS), Colin White, Alex Rothney and L P Tinson ? (later Head of Valve Section). They moved offices to The Langham a year or so later and Jim Moon joined as an additional Site Finder. During this period Maurice Clough moved on and Jim Moon became HSAS. Colin White left to go abroad and Malcolm Harman joined the Section.

The Team moved offices again to Harewood House, Hanover Square, in 1972. Malcolm Harman returned to Research Department and George Bath joined. Luxurious accommodation, large offices, floor length curtains and balconies! In addition to the Site Finders, a Site Engineer was appointed to check reception, for re-broadcast purposes, at proposed sites. John Hawkins, Tony Glasier and Mick Benns held this position at various times. From early days using a long wheelbase Land Rover they progressed to a Mercedes Unimog vehicle which allowed direct access to the more remote locations. The vehicle had a built in 30 foot mast raised by compressed air.

The Harewood House lease expired and the Section moved to more modest premises at Bentinck House, Bolsover Street in 1977. The pace was now hotting up and additional Site Finders were required, Graham Barrell, Ian Baker, Doug fisher and Robert Foster. Jim Moon retired and Peter Cleminson became HSAS. Another lease expiry in 1980 saw the Section move to Henry Wood House in Regent Street. There were also organisational changes and HSAS became Head of Engineering Transmitter Support Services. Site Finders were required to complete 12 to 15 new acquisitions a year to keep pace with the UHF Relay rollout programme.

London as a base came to an end in 1987 with the move to Warwick Technology Park and Peter Mensforth was appointed as Section Head. As the rate of need for the new sites decreased the job took on a more “Estate Management” role and also Site Sharing became a more important source of income.

George Bath Feb 09.

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