BBC Northants is in worst state
The building at BBC Radio Northampton is in the worst state of any of the corporation's local radio stations, and its 9-year wait for a refurb continues.
Their approved update to fully digital studios has been shelved for at least another two years because of budget cuts – meaning much of the kit is the original stuff from 28 years ago.
This week's BBC staff newspaper Ariel reports that during one recent OB the radio car's ISDN equipment failed 33 times, leaving listeners complaining about the silences. "It's particularly frustrating when we lose live links because so many of our stories are user generated and when we fall off air, listeners are bound to feel short changed," BBC Radio Northampton breakfast producer Anna Bartlett told Ariel.
The report tells how the building – a former bank in Abingdon Street in the town – is in a shabby state, with failed air-conditioning, limited access to the only lift and a mis-match of analogue kit with digital technology bolted on.
A scheduled £1.4m refit that was meant to have started would have not only solved that but also prevented the station falling off air so many times. But it was put on hold again late last year.
Editor Laura Moss says: "I don't mind admitting I cried when I got the news. We'd been due for refurbishment for nine years and money's already been spent drawing up plans and designs. I work with a fantastic team who, despite everything, strive to deliver quality content, first and foremost. But the time they waste, including their own, grappling with our outdated technology is heartbreaking. Our staff and our audience deserve much better."
Station Engineer Richard Hunt told Ariel: "Because 90 percent of the core broadcasting chain is the original design, there's only so much you can expect. For instance, the ISDN codecs system we use is no longer manufactured, so we rely on butchering units that have come out of stations that have been refurbished. We're running out of kit and I'm mending broadcasting desks while we're on air."
David Holdsworth, controller English Regions accepts that Northampton's need for an upgrade is 'the most acute' in the whole local radio chain and is looking at what interim improvements can be done, until the shelved refurbishment can be revived – in 2013 at the earliest. He told Ariel: "There is a risk of the station failing and if that happens, we would have to attempt to fix it." If that happened, Radio Northampton would get a temporary home at BBC Three Counties in Luton.
David added: "I regret any time we let the audience down and it's happening too frequently at Northampton. We're not proud of the facilities, they're clearly not up to scratch, which is why the upgrade was planned. It is extremely bad luck that this refit has fallen when there is no money available. We will do our best and make the argument again as soon as possible for the upgrade to go head."
Read more on the issues Radio Northampton has to struggle with [link=http://www.bbc.co.uk/ariel/12600477]here[/link].