Outside broadcast units

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Scotland's first dedicated mobile unit for television outside broadcasts was delivered to the BBC's Queen Margaret Drive headquarters at the end of July 1952 and delivered its first production for the television network on 12 August.

It was one of the most up-to-date OB units possessed by the BBC. The technical equipment was installed in a six-wheeled vehicle, which normally functioned as the control room, and was designed to work with three cameras simultaneously. The equipment could, however, be removed and set up elsewhere at sites where it was impossible to park the vehicle near enough to the cameras. The cameras, which were designed to produce a good picture even when the light was relatively poor, could be operated by remote control if necessary.

The picture signals from the control room could be fed into the national television system by means of special GPO landlines or mobile radio links, or a combination of both. The combined method was, in fact, employed in the OB unit's first two assignments (see below). Two of these radio links were available for Scottish outside broadcasts, giving an approximate range of 60 miles. [1]

The unit was on view to members of the press on Friday 8 August 1952.[2]

First broadcasts

The OB unit's first two assignments were from the Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow: a performance of James Bridie's play The Black Eye on Tuesday 12 August, and a discussion, A Parliament for Scotland?, the following evening.

The control room was established in the theatre, and from there the sound and sight signals were taken by land lines to GPO House in the city's St Vincent Street. A radio link set-up on the roof then transmitted the signals to another link on Dechmont Hill and then on to Kirk o' Shotts.

The Edinburgh International Festival, which opens on August 17, the same day on which the high-power transmitters at Kirk o' Shotts came into operation.

Television Music-Hall was presented for the first time from Scotland on Saturday 15 November 1952, starring Gracie Fields, who was making a concert tour of Scotland at the time, Harry Gordon, Robert Wilson, Jack Radcliffe, Tessie O'Shea, and Dave Willis, who emerged from retirement to make this televised performance. A review in the Glasgow Herald said that the programme "flattered us by making few concessions to whatever English ears might be hearing".

In Other People's Jobs: The Miner on Tuesday 25 November 1952 the unit went down Tillicoultry pit.


A staff of about 30 was required to operate the unit and the radio links. These 30 men, several of whom were Scots, worked under the supervision of assistant engineer-in-charge (television), Mr W. A. Jackson, who was responsible to Mr F. W. Endicott, the Scottish regional studio engineer.

The producers in charge of the programmes produced by the OB unit were Aubrey Singer, who left film work for BBC television in 1949, and James Buchan, who was formerly news observer and outside broadcasts producer in Glasgow. Noble Wilson, who was from Perth, was the studio manager.


  1. 'Mobile TV in Scotland', Glasgow Herald, 9 August 1952, 6.
  2. 'Outside Events on Television', Glasgow Herald, 9 August 1952, 6.