IF there’s one thing employees at Channel Television in Jersey don’t suffer from, it’s nostalgia. When they moved from the old Rouge Bouillon station to the purpose-built premises just up the road at La Pouquelaye, no tears were shed for what was being left behind. The ‘good old days’ had meant queuing up to use the editing booths, running from one end of the building to the other if a videotape was needed for transmission, entertaining clients in the canteen and getting tangled up in cables on the floor.
Channel TV’s policy of keeping right up to date with the latest technology meant bringing state of the art equipment into every department. Space evaporated. A portakabin appeared in the car park to house the accounts department, and every other nook and cranny was packed to capacity, with some departments doubling up in small offices. Partition walls were moved from here to there in a vain attempt to make the place look bigger. Needless to say, it was purely an optical illusion, and it became clear that the dated Rouge Bouillon building had to change and develop with the times, or it would cease to function efficiently.
A firm of architects was brought in by the management of Channel TV to examine the problem. And it was a problem. The only way Channel could expand was by building on its own car park, in an area which is notorious for parking, or by going up an extra floor. It was obvious that choices had to be made, and that the most essential requirements would have to take precedence over any ‘cosmetic’ development. Suggestions were thrown in and thrown out, but it seemed that if more space for studios and other technical facilities was to be created, certain other areas would be lost.
While all these problems were being thrashed out, a company called Reditronics, which manufactured public address systems and background music equipment for the Rediffusion group, put its factory up for sale. In August 1987, Channel TV bought the site. Now the plans for Channel TV were turned topsy turvy — a very large space was ready and waiting to help turn all the company’s dreams into reality. As a bonus, it would prove to be much easier than the original brief.
By this time, decisions had already been made as to Channel TV’s needs. Top of the list was more studio space, plus additional editing and dubbing facilities. It was ‘simply’ a case of transferring it all into an empty shell. After the completion of the sale of the factory, Reditronics moved out, but Rediffusion continued to operate on the site until the following May. Very little work could be done until then, though a certain amount of demolition work was carried out. On 10 May 1988, when the building was completely empty, the contractors moved in to start work. They had just over six months to complete the project — the Rouge Bouillon site, which had by now been sold, had to be vacated by the end of the year.
The first task was to lay the foundations for the new studios, and good weather meant that the work went according to schedule. The studios are the part of Channel TV which islanders are most familiar with. News bulletins, Daily Diary, Puffins Pla(i)ce and Channel Report all come from the Jersey studios, with the Guernsey studio also used daily for news; in fact it took over completely from Jersey while the major part of the move to La Pouquelaye was carried out.
The 1,000 sq ft studio at the Rouge Bouillon station had long been overstretched. There was a fixed set at one end for Channel Report, and any other recording had to be done at the other end. This arrangement presented all sorts of problems, not least that certain camera shots were very difficult to set up. In contrast, the La Pouquelaye site was so large that three studios could be built. Studio A was the biggest at l,750sq ft; studio B measured 850sq ft; and there was Puffins Pla(i)ce, or the continuity studio, where the announcers would read news bulletins and introduce programmes, and Oscar Puffin would present his birthday spot.
Studio B was to become the home of Channel Report. It contained two sets: the formal desk, from which a programme presenter reads the news; and the ‘soft’ set of seating units which is used for more informal interviews or presentations.
This would appear to have left studio A, the largest of the three, with the sole task of producing in-house advertisements and promotions. In fact, with the extra editing and dubbing suites available, studio A could provide a well-equipped and complete facility for anyone wishing to make a TV programme or promotional film, whether they’re from the Channel Islands, the UK or even further afield.
An example of the high level of flexibility and technical sophistication in the studio’s equipment is the lighting rig. Although it is some 17ft up, it can be manoeuvred, adjusted and focussed without anyone having to leave the floor and perform acrobatic tricks on a gantry! Each of the 76 studio lights is attached to a pantograph, or vertically extending arm, which can be raised or lowered to any height required using a special pole. In turn, the pantographs are fixed to traversing barrels which run on wheels across a framework of bars fixed to the ceiling, allowing the lights to be moved from one side of the studio to the other, again with the help of a specially designed pole.
All this lighting is operated from a portable control panel which is linked to a computer, so that special lighting effects or requirements can be programmed on to a floppy disc and then recalled at the flick of a single control. The equipment was supplied by a UK firm, Lee Colortran, and several other mainland firms were brought in to supply and install the highly specialised items needed for the station.
One such company was Sony Broadcast who, helped by our own engineering staff, planned, designed and fitted out Master Control, the studio control rooms and other technical areas. One of their biggest jobs was installing the CAR — the Central Apparatus Room. This is the electronic heart of the station, receiving and pumping out signals and information to all departments.
Such a vast amount of equipment would obviously consume a considerable quantity of power, and a new sub-station carrying two 11,000 volt cables had to be installed to cover the increased demand for electricity. The Jersey Electricity Company were contracted to carry out this job, while Jersey Telecoms were brought in on another project — the laying of a fibre optic link from the transmitter at Fremont Point to the station at La Pouquelaye. Previously the Rouge Bouillon station had one cable which carried signals from either Television South (TVS), or Guernsey, or Television South West (TSW), via Fremont Point. These signals were processed at the station and sent back to Fremont Point, from where they were transmitted into people’s homes as TV pictures. The trouble was that only one of the three sets of signals could be received at any one time; if one signal failed, a complicated process of switching to another line ensued.
The availability of additional links within the fibre optic would allow both network and Guernsey signals to be brought in to the station at the same time. The outgoing programme would also be fed back to Fremont Point transmitter via the two links so if one failed, transmission need not be affected. Once again this fibre optic technology meant that Channel TV led the field, and could offer local viewers increased quality and reliability of service.
With an assured power supply, the next stage in equipping the new station was plotting the whereabouts of the many computers within the station. Sony technicians set to work in the CAR to make sense of the miles of cable on which the running of all the equipment depended. All the main cables from the CAR were carried in trays which were positioned above the main corridor of the technical area. From there, they were fed off into the rest of the building.
All this delicate equipment has to be maintained at a steady temperature, so an air conditioning system needed to be installed. It was also essential to have air conditioning in the studios — it would be impossible to work under studio lights without it.
After three months of the contract had passed, the La Pouquelaye building was taking shape. Carpenters, decorators and plumbers could move in to complete the work. Partition walls went up to create office space and storage rooms, and the whole building was painted white to give it a feeling of spaciousness. But architect James Goff of Nigel Biggar & Partners was concerned that the building would resemble a rabbit warren, with one corridor indistinguishable from the next.
He decided to create ‘reference points’ help staff, and visitors in particular, to find their bearings. One of the main examples of this technique can be found in the main corridor on the ground floor which leads through the technical area. It was achieved with the skilful use of wall textures. One side of the corridor consists of a breeze block wall which has simply been painted pale grey.
On the other side are storage cupboards and the doors to various technical departments, all made of light wood.
By early November, just three weeks before the Rouge Bouillon premises had to be vacated, the programming department, administration and Channel Oracle moved to the new station. Swarms of workmen continued to hammer and drill and paint around them, but all the essentials were complete in time for the remaining departments to move house. An entire TV station had moved to new premises in a single, well-organised operation, and without having to go off the air.
Needless to say, the work didn’t stop there. Once the various departments were in situ, the ‘running in’ of the equipment and facilities began. Channel TV’s engineers had their hands full setting up the editing booths and dubbing suites, as well as continuing to carry out routine maintenance and jobs like tuning in the station’s many TV sets, mending ‘loose connections’ and generally rushing around whenever a piece of equipment failed (temporarily) to do what it was designed to do.
Of course Channel TV is now bigger and better than ever, but with further room for development still available at La Pouquelaye, CTV has many years ahead in which to continue offering its viewers the very best in community television.