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Recollections of BBC engineering from 1922 to 1997
The British Broadcasting Corporation
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BBC Engineering Division

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Introduction

Engineers made it possible for the BBC to come into existence and Engineering Division was a major part of the BBC.

The BBC Staff List for 1938 appears to list all staff (about 3900) and it provides a good indication of the place held by Engineering within the organisation at the time.  About a third of the BBC's staff were in Engineering Division and "CONTROLLER (ENGINEERING)" is listed third, under the D.G and D.D.G.
Pages from the 1938 Staff List can be seen by clicking the links below (I'm sorry about the poor quality, but the text is legible).  Information on the non-engineering parts of the BBC is outside the scope of bbceng, but it is included here in order to put the engineering information into context.

Index

Pages 1 to 4 Senior staff and Secretariats

Pages 5 to 22 Programme Division

Pages 23 to 52 Administration Division

Pages 53 to 59 Public Relations Division

Pages 61 to 106 Engineering Division (17MB).  Alternative 1MB, but it has OCR errors.

Pages 107 to 133 Regional Offices

Pages 135 to 137 Postal Addresses. Not copied.

Pages 140 to 224 Alphabetical Index (Listing about 3900 staff who also appear in the above pages.) Not copied.

 

The recruitment booklets listed below provide a good introduction to the breadth of activities.  The 1989 booklet is probably the best.  Click on the links to see PDF versions.

Engineers in the BBC, 1976
Engineers in the BBC, 1977 (landscape, monochrome and smaller file.  Best for printing. Right click and rotate to read on screen)
Engineering and Technical Operations in the BBC, 1978
Engineers in the BBC 1978
BBC Engineering, c1986
BBC Technical Careers in Broadcasting, 1986
BBC Sponsorship, 1986
BBC Trainee Engineers, 1986, and last two pages
BBC Engineering, 1989

...and here is a recruitment leaflet from Appointments Department, which was not part of Engineering Division, but it includes references to engineering careers.  It seems to have been written before the era of equal opportunities! 1965 perhaps? "Opportunities for Young Men and Boys in the BBC in London".

Listen to talks about the first 40 years of BBC Engineering.

Examples of engineering achievements through the decades
 

1920s: Outside Broadcast of The Boat Race. SB network (providing Simultaneous Broadcast of a programme from many transmitters).
1930s: “High Definition” TV service in London. Many new studios, with greatly improved acoustics. Empire Service on HF.
1940s: Studios (e.g. at Evesham) and powerful transmitting stations built to support war effort. Third Programme service.
1950s: FM radio. TV in most regions in time for Coronation. Cablefilm developed for transatlantic television transmission by telephone cable.
1960s: Colour TV. Sound-in-Syncs (saving money). Analogue standards conversion. Unattended TV transmitters (saving money).
1970s: Digital distribution of stereo sound. Teletext. Automation (saving money). World's first digital television recorder developed.
1980s: TV service extended to remote populations. Digital video processing e.g. rotating world. RDS (revolutionised FM reception in cars).
1990s: BBC centres linked by digital broadcast network. Digital Audio Broadcasting. Automated HF transmitting station built in Thailand.

BBC engineers were central to these achievements, but nearly all engineering developments are the result of contributions from many people in various organisations and their contributions are gratefully acknowledged.

This is only a small selection, so if you would like to highlight others then please email.

Senior engineering posts can be seen in this list of Abbreviated Titles which covered the whole of the BBC.

Click here for Recollections of BBC Engineering.

Click here to see a brochure for the 1972 Engineers-in-Charge Annual Meeting, which marked 50 years of BBC engineering (10MB PDF file).  The people who attended are pictured in the brochure, but you can also click the picture below to see a larger version.  Make sure that your browser is not set to automatic image resizing.  In Internet Explorer go to Tools/Internet Options/Advanced and under Multimedia uncheck Enable automatic image resizing.  In Firefox use Ctrl++.

 

Engineering Division's leaders, listed below, were members of the BBC's Board of Management. 

Captain Peter Eckersley 1923 - 1929 Chief Engineer
Sir Noel Ashbridge       1929 - 1952  Chief Engineer, renamed Controller (Engineering) by 1938, then renamed Director of Technical Services
Sir Harold Bishop  1952 - 1963  Director of Technical Services renamed Director of Engineering in 1956
Sir Francis McLean   1963 - 1968  Director of Engineering
Sir James Redmond  
  
1968 - 1978  Director of Engineering
Dr Bryce McCrirrick CBE 1978 - 1987 Director of Engineering
Dr Bill Dennay 1987 - 1993 Director of Engineering

A significant proportion of the BBC's staff worked for Engineering Division:

Date      Number of staff in Engineering Division
1945      3700
1955      4800
1968      7000
1969      4200 

The reduction was due to the transfer of some engineering staff to the Television, Radio and External Broadcasting Directorates.  (This web site is predominantly about Engineering Division, but the scope is intended to include all engineering activities relating to the BBC.)

Broadcasting-Developments-1922-1938.pdf

Broadcasting-developments-1938-1951.pdf

Broadcasting-developments-1951-1971.pdf

Eng Rpt to Gov 1982.pdf

finance-meeting-typical-agendas-1987.pdf

eng-dir-changes-1990.PDF

telecom-structure-1995.pdf

eng-div-3-year-strategy-1995.pdf

In 1995 Engineering Division was abolished and the remaining engineers formed Technical Resources, a part of BBC Resources.  (Happily, Engineering Division was established once again two decades later!)

Engineering activities are summarised on the Home page and further details can be seen by clicking on the area of interest.

Engineering Personnel Department only appears under Training at present (E.P.D. Management course pictures).

The following areas are not presently within the scope of this web site, but this could change on request:-
Engineering Accounts Department.
Computer Services* (mainframe computer systems for Engineering Accounts and Central Stores etc.).

*Steve Snook contributed the following message in March 2009:
"As far as I know, Computer Services were never part of Engineering Division. Management Services Group (MSG) had two departments concerned with computing in the 1970's. These were Computer Planning Department, based at Colgate House in Oxford Street and Computer Operations based at Sulgrave House in Shepherd's Bush. They had many computer projects running across all the BBC Directorates. I was attached to Computer Planning Department as a Development Engineer in 1974/5. As part of Personnel Directorate, MSG were also involved with organisation, methods and grading."