11 Jun A visit to the Birmingham BBC Visitor Centre: A Jungle of buttons and wires
Written by Alesha and Carter, Year 7 Student reporters
We all take watching television programmes for granted, but only a few of us get to know what goes on behind the scenes. So when our group of Young Reporters got the opportunity to visit the BBC Visitor Centre in Birmingham, we were extremely excited to find out how the professionals do it!
On June 5th 2019, we arrived in Birmingham at around 12pm, and hopped off the train. The weather was great for the day trip and the sun was shining over the busy city. Some of us had never visited Birmingham before, and the rush of people filling the train station was a lot different to Coventry. After stopping at Sainsbury’s to buy a hurried lunch, we skipped our way to the Mailbox building, where the shiny BBC Visitor Centre awaited. We received a warm welcome by the receptionist, and she directed us to the futuristic looking reception area, next to the ‘Blue Room’. The space was full of high tech gadgets, games, and even some props from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Doctor Who’!
After a short wait, it was time for our ‘fake news’ workshop, run by Felicity (the very enthusiastic news editor of BBC Midlands Today).
The focus of the workshop was distinguishing ‘fake news’ from real news. After a few quick warm up activities, we were all given news headlines, and Felicity introduced us to ‘sources’, where the news had came from. The headlines seemed so ridiculous that 80% of us thought they were ‘fake news’. Very soon we learned that they were in fact genuine news stories! This made us realise how easy it is to confuse ‘fake news’ stories with genuine ones, and how people can use ‘fake news’ for political gain or to support an idea.
Soon Felicity took us to the ‘West Midlands Studio’, to show us where all the magic of broadcasting happens. After a short walk across a jungle of wires and cameras, the exciting chatter of the group stopped. We stepped into the bright red room to see a variety of brightly coloured switches and screens. It seemed like all the camera equipment in the world was in the room. We were behind the scenes! We were on the set of the West Midlands news broadcasts!
Did you know that recording one show needs at least 5 people to work on lighting, sound volumes and cameras?
Then we were given permission to sit on the famous red sofa! It was the set where Nick Owen and Mary Rhodes (West Midlands news readers) sit to present news! We were told about the responsibilities of the camera crew and lighting engineers, which seemed like a never ending list of critical jobs. It felt like we should be quiet and take in the vibe of the famous room, but instead we bombarded Felicity with all the questions that were racing around our heads.
How do the news readers know what to say? What happens if something goes wrong? What does that big red button do?
Our next stop was the ‘Gallery’ control centre, where we found many small screens with buttons, lots of buttons! We tried to take in as much information as we could.
The day ended with another short, but fascinating workshop on ‘fake news’. We talked about the devices we used to know what’s going on in the West Midlands, and sang a song about ‘fake news’. Its lyrics were similar to the Horrible Histories series, funny and wittingly clever!
Last but not least, we got to experience presenting the weather in front of a green screen, using an auto-cue and speaking to a camera. We could see ourselves on the big plasma screen and of course witnessed how we looked like on the telly!
Thank you for reading our blog, and we hope you remember that you can have an opportunity like this if you ‘be the best you can be’.