Journey to Manchester Part 1: Outbound to BBC Media City (1/18/15)

Almost from its inception, the BBC has been criticized for focusing too many of its activities (and its programs) on London. That was one reason why, in 2o04, the corporation announced a plan to move many of its studios and jobs to Manchester. Two years later, a 200 acre site was chosen for MediaCityUK in the community of Salford, where we journeyed by bus on this cold winter day.

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While the site features three massive buildings occupied by the BBC, MediaCity emulates the co-located facilities at Hilversum Media Park in The Netherlands. In this case, the site is shared with University of Salford and ITV Granada (including the sets and production facilities for the long running soap opera Coronation Street). The footprint of MediaCityUK also includes restaurants, shops, and swanky flats. Even on this wet, snowy day residents jogged or strolled across the plaza, some accompanied by their dogs.

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For this one-time radio theater producer (KAOS FM’s Alive in Olympia1985-87), the highlight of our 90 minute tour was the visit to the BBC’s purpose built radio theater studio. The space includes multiple installations used by the audio artists to transport listeners to the far flung corners of the imagination. Wood, metal, tile, and carpet floors and stairs provide different tones for footsteps. The back regions of the studio include a kitchen/bath room (with two tones of running water), an enclosed area with a heavy wooden door (squeek – slam!) and a double-hung window (whoosh – thud), and a “dead zone” where actors speak within inches of the wall to provide the sound of “the voice in your head”. The sound effects table includes all sorts of contraptions capable of imitating the sounds of wind, horses, and pigeons flapping on Trafalgar Square. And the eerie anechoic room literally sucks up sound: even the loudest screams are muted by the large foam wedges.

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About massmediax

Dr. Michael Huntsberger is Associate Professor in the department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. He teaches courses in electronic media production, mass communication ethics, and mass communication history, and his research focuses on public media policy and technology. He is an active member of the Broadcast Education Association and the RIPE Initiative.
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