ENGINEERING THE SOUND OF SUCCESS
TUCKED AWAY INSIDE Euston Tower is the
nerve centre of Capital. Five different studios surround the shaded room that
houses master control, with its desk of dials and switches, from where Capital
is broadcast across London.
Master control is manned 24 hours a day by a
team of operators working in pairs. They balance and synchronise the djs and
presenters output from the studios, play commercials, pre- record programmes and
record live groups and musicians. Chief engineer is Gerry O'Reilly, with Steve
Turner supervising the sound.
There's a team of maintenance engineers too,
whose job is to keep the equipment running smoothly and design new equipment for
The high level of concentration required by the operators is
something that you get accustomed to, as operator Stuart Lee explained during a
"It's difficult at first, but you get used to being able to keep
your concentration for long stretches at a time," he said, carefully timing one
of the 400 taped commercials that are arranged in stands around the console and
cueing Tony Myatt for his next record at the same time!
"But you never work
master control for more than three hours, which acts as a safeguard against you
becoming too tired. The nice thing about working the shifts is that you get days
off during the week, although you do have to work the night shift of course.
This makes a pleasant change, though, because the pace is more leisurely, al-
though you have to stay alert."
The djs play their own records and jingles,
and there's good rapport between them and the operators on the other side of the
glass partition. Jokes are cracked and comments exchanged while records are
playing - but that air of professionalism is always present, allowing the
operator to snap his attention back to the buttons and switches in a second.
Everything that is heard on your radio passes through master control,
including outside broad- casts from the Capital Bus and reports from Scotland
Yard. Commercial transmission times are logged on sheets and giant spools of
tape record everything that goes out from Capital.
Each of the studios has a
special function. Studio 1 is the djs on-air studio; Studio 2 is the stand-by
on-air studio; Studio 3 handles chat programmes like "London Today"; Studio 4 is
the music studio where live music is recorded; Studio 5 is the commercial
production studio. Each studio has its own control room, and control 3 is also a
stand-by for master control should anything go wrong.
"Our job is to make
everything as easy as possible for the djs," said Stuart. "We try to deal with
any problems our- selves, without involving them so that they can concentrate on
They're all for women's lib in the engineers department, too,
as engineers Sue and Louise will tell you. They pull their weight along with the
men, even though they're outnumbered!
So the next time you listen to
Capital, think of the engineer, flicking those switches and cueing the dj. He,
or she, is a real V.I.P. ... a Very Important Person!