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NEWSLETTER

JUNE 2022
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MCR21 IS GOING ON DISPLAY
Come and join us at Amberley Museum
West Sussex BN18 9LT
The Museum is open Wednedays to Sundays
On Thursday 8th July we are having a special Launch Day
Please do join us for the Launch. We have arranged for admission to the whole museum and a light lunch for
 a special price of £15.50


Please let me know as soon as possible If you would like to come to Amberley on the 8th July for the launch event and if you would like to bring someone with you.
(There are limited numbers)
Please email me nick@mcr21.org.uk
or Tel 07831 219957

Also please get in touch if you are able to be a volunteer one day or more at Amberley, talking to visitors about MCR21
There is a lot to see at Amberley Museum as well as MCR21

The Day When Television Became ‘Respectable’
by Nick Gilbey
First published in the BBC Pensioners Association Christmas Newsletter December 2021

The date was Tuesday 2nd June 1953. It was an important date for our Queen – It was her Coronation Day. It was also a seminal day for BBC Television. That day, 20 million people in the UK watched the Coronation on TV, that was against 11 million who listened to the events unfolding on the radio. From that date the number of people who watched television grew with haste, until nearly every home in the Country had a TV. As Professor ASA Briggs puts it in his official history of the BBC, ‘All commentators agreed that television was here to stay and here to grow. The public’s appetite had been whetted’.

While there is no doubt that the televising of the Coronation was a great success, there is a question as to whether it would have been, if the original plans for televising the event had not been changed. In 1937, the BBC televised the coronation of George VI, only covering the procession as it past through Apsley Gate at Hyde Park Corner. The original plan for Elizabeth II Coronation, announced by the Earl Marshall for the Coronation, the Duke of Norfolk, in October 1952, was again for the BBC to televise the procession, but not the ceremony inside Westminster Abbey.

BBC Television, in the guise of Seymour de Lotbiniere, Head of BBC TV Outside Broadcasts, and his assistant, Peter Dimmock, knew that this was the wrong decision and started to campaign to get cameras inside the Abbey. Peter Dimmock, coming from a military background, called it a war with Seymour de Lotbiniere being the commander- in chief and himself as the general. Perhaps the biggest weapon the BBC had in its arsenal was Peter Dimmock’s love of horse racing and being a member of the Turf Club, along with the Duke of Norfolk.

As Sir Paul Fox explains
“Peter knew that televising the ceremony could only be done with the co-operation of the Duke of Norfolk. Peter knew the Duke because he was in charge of the racing at Ascot and the BBC did Ascot racing. So Peter and Bernard Norfolk were on familiar terms and it was Peter who persuaded the Duke of Norfolk that cameras would be OK inside the Abbey.”

There was one more step in the process of getting permission to televise the actual crowning ceremony. It had been agreed that permission would be granted to place a camera in the nave of the Abbey but not in the main part of the Abbey where the crowning would take place. Again, Seymour and Peter felt this was not satisfactory and arranged with the Duke to do a camera test at the Abbey.

Peter Dimmock -

 We took an outside broadcast unit down to Westminster Abbey, and we put the camera below the choir screen. The Archbishop, the Duke of Norfolk, Ministry of Works and the press secretary of Buckingham Palace, they all came, and I was lucky enough, as none of them really understood television. So I put on a two-inch lens, which was the widest lens we’d got, and then got a girl to sit where the Queen would sit. And of course, she looked really small on the screen! I said, look it’s not going to upset the Queen. They were all worried, quite genuinely, about it being too much of a strain for the Queen to know that she was on television. I said, no it won’t be a strain for her. Then another stroke of luck happened They complained about the lighting. I discovered that the film newsreels had
been given permission to put lighting in for a colour film camera. So I said we don’t need as much light as they do for a colour film camera. So that destroyed that argument. As a result of the tests, we were on tenterhooks for about 48 hours, and then the answer came through ‘OK’.”

While many ‘battles’ had been won, the war was not over. The question of how many cameras would be allowed in the Abbey and where they would be positioned had to be agreed. In the end four cameras were positioned in the central part of the Abbey. The Duke insisted that all the cameras and camera operators should be inconspicuous so an appeal went out, within the BBC, for small camera operators. A diminutive Tony Flanagan had to sit among the musicians next to the organ. His camera had the best view of the throne and was disguised by covering it with a black velvet cloth. D.R.G. Montagu, senior cameraman of the Midlands and North Unit, MCR 10, was operating Camera 3 high up behind the triforium, the gallery high above the Abbey floor. Monty Montague -"Behind the triforium, the Ministry of Works had set up a network of hastily constructed rooms or cubicles for operational requirements. I was in one of those, rather like a wooden cell with the roof too low for me to stand up straight, but equipped with a box seat and an electric fan. I used to enter with a sort of Groucho Marx straddle and make for the box seat where I could straighten up sitting down. From this seat I evolved numerous permutations of kneeling and sitting positions from which to make necessary adjustments and operational manoeuvres to the camera. In the cubicle over mine was Richard Dimbleby He seemed to have more room than me, for I could often hear him striding his floor above my head. I envied him his headroom. We knew each other very well by this time, through many previous programmes. He always used to call me Monty and this name has stuck ever since.”

Many more BBC personnel were working along the procession route. MCR 11 from Scotland was at Hyde Park Corner, flying the Scottish flag attached to the control room. MCR12 from the Westcountry had de-rigged its cameras onto the Victoria Memorial, allowing one its Pye cameras, fitted with a very long lens, to capture those close- up shots of the Queen and her family on the Buckingham Palace balcony. MCR7 was on the Embankment. Stephen Wade, who was the stage manager working on that unit, recalls the morning of the Coronation. –
“I woke stiff from a night on an ex-army bed in someone’s office in Langham Place and had just time for a cup of tea before Wynford Vaughan-Thomas picked me up to give me a lift to my position on the Embankment. We had to pass
through massive gates that sealed off some of the roads to the route by, I think, 8.30am. This was part of the security system, not much by today’s standard but this was the age when such violence, as we have now, was unthinkable.”   

 In a shed built in the Edward VII Chapel next to the Abbey, the BBC set up the television control room for the Abbey coverage. Peter Dimmock would direct this part of the Coronation with Seymour de Lotbiniere, at Broadcasting House, taking in the pictures from the Abbey, the five OB units along the procession route and the studio at Alexandra Palace, where Sylvia Peters would work as the continuity announcer for the day’s transmissions. Peter had arranged with Tony Bridgewater, who was in charge of BBC engineering, for producer, John Vernon, to operate the vision mixer. Days before the ceremony, Peter and John would rehearse the coverage and meticulously work out a ‘shot’ list. Whilst Peter Dimmock did not have a direct involvement in the Coronation proceedings, he provided some advice, which helped bring a sense of great occasion to the final chapter of the crowning ceremony.

Peter was not happy with the music, which was to be played after the crowning ceremony, as the Queen and her procession paraded down the aisle.

Peter Dimmock.

“Arthur Bliss had written a special bit of music – it was bloody awful. It was Princess Margaret who helped me here. We were having a meeting, which included me, John Snagge, Bernard Norfolk, and the Ministry of Works chap, Mackay, who was the orchestra leader. He said well we’ve got this marvellous bit of music and I said, please, please we want something dramatic, something really stirring. I mean this is a great occasion, and this music I’ve listened to, with respect, it really is pretty, pretty ordinary. Princess Margaret said, uncle (meaning the Duke of Norfolk) I think Peter Dimmock is right. I think that you do need a stronger piece and John Snagge said, I agree. In the end, Bernard Norfolk saw that was right. Then McKay, sensing what Bernard Norfolk was going to say, nipped in quickly to make it look as though it was his decision and said, ‘Yes, I think we’ll go with one of the Pomp and Circumstances.’

Now you see that made a hell of a difference. I had a camera over the West Door for when the Queen proceeded out. I was able to hold her in close-up and I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in Britain, it was marvellous. There was so much, so many hurdles to overcome, and I was thrilled when it all came off because if that camera had broken down, for example, that would have ruined it.”

 

In fact not a single one of the 20 cameras, used in the Abbey and covering the procession broke, down during the seven-hour broadcast. Televising the Coronation, used the entire operational fleet of BBC Television outside broadcast units. The cameras from BBC units, MCRs 8 and 9, were the inside the Abbey. These cameras, Marconi Mk I and IIs had Image Orthicon tubes, which could produce much better pictures than the previous generation of cameras and certainly performed well in the Abbey. It was Peter Dimmock who persuaded the BBC to order these Image Orthicon cameras, which were designed in the USA, but built by Marconi in the UK, under a licensing agreement.

Whilst the lavish spectacle of the Coronation lifted the spirits of the British public, it was the same for many people living in Europe, Canada and the USA. Christian Dior wrote - ‘The Coronation of the young Elizabeth II has filled, not only the British, but rather strangely the French too, and much of Europe, with renewed optimism and faith in the future’. It was perhaps fortunate, or forward planning, that the BBC in 1950 had worked out how to get a broadcast television signal across the English Channel with a live broadcast from Calais, hosted by Richard Dimbleby. Now the signal was travelling in the opposite direction, allowing French, German and Dutch viewers to watch the Coronation live. Special arrangements were made so that viewers across the Atlantic could see the Coronation on the same day.

Special arrangements were made so that viewers across the Atlantic could see the Coronation on the same day. Jim Pople, who was a BBC film editor in 1953 and went on to direct many royal occasions for ITV, including Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles. Jim recalls. - ‘With a hint of rain in the air, my trusty 500cc Matchless Twin motorbike was carrying me to Kays Laboratory at Finsbury Park where the Coronation Day transmission was being tele-recorded onto 35mm film. I assume that a tele-recording suite had been set up at the Lab as time was of the essence’.

‘We eagerly awaited the first reel to come off the printer and a quick look in the preview theatre confirmed that the quality was going to be good. My job in the ‘positive’ room was to take the 1,000ft reels, put leaders and tails on them, can them up, label the cans and prepare them for each of the three sequences – the Procession to the Abbey – the Ceremony – the Procession back to Buckingham Palace, were completed.’ ‘With a despatch rider standing by, the reels were taken up to Alexandra Palace racecourse, where they were helicoptered to Heathrow, loaded into Canberra bombers and flown to America. In the days before satellites, the Canberra, courtesy of the RAF, was the fastest way to cross the Atlantic. Known as ‘Operation Pony Express’, three Canberras left London Airport at 1.30pm, 3.15pm and 6.20pm, each taking just five hours for the journey. The full tele-recording was transmitted by Canadian TV at 4.15pm local time and simultaneously sent to NBC and NBC from Montreal for showing in the United States.’

It is without doubt that due to the efforts of the BBC, and in particular those of Seymour de Lotbiniere and Peter Dimmock, an incredible number of people were able to watch this deeply religious, poignant and opulent occasion, either live or, with the use of the tele-recordings, within hours of the live broadcast and on the same day, as Canada and the USA were many hours behind UK time.

Perhaps more importantly, television had become ‘respectable’. As Peter Dimmock put it –“if you went to a dinner party before the Coronation, and you mentioned television, most people would say... well, we haven’t got it. Maybe the servants had got it. After the Coronation, all the conversation was, ‘Did you see that programme on television last week?’ and that was the real watershed. I mean, television really came into its own then.”

Since that date, television cameras have been very welcome at all national events. There has been was one exemption, again taking place within Westminster Abbey. That was the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, when cameras were nearly banned from inside the Abbey - but that is another story.

BBC NORTH TELEVISION OBs  Part 2

By Jerry Clegg and Robin Stonestreet
Photo Credits - Doug Kipling, Jerry Clegg, Brian Summers, PyeTVT, Sony

  BBC North Oxford Road Studio Complex

The huge scanner-hall in New Broadcasting House, Manchester, opened in 1976. It had dedicated bays to accommodate scanners fully powered-up  both electrically and mechanically. They could be undergoing mechanical and electronic servicing at the same time. There was even a rolling road to service and test the brakes.
NORTH 3 - CMCR 37 - A Type 5 Unit
In 1982 the three type-2 CMCR’s were replaced with three type-5 CMCR’s. CMCR 36 (KYY441X) became North 1, CMCR 37 (NYN34Y) became North 3 and CMCR 38 (NYN81Y) became North 2, these were all equipped with 8 x Philips LDK5 triax camera CCU’s. Five LDK5 1” tube cameras were supplied for each truck. There were also three base spare channels. Each camera was supplied with a Schneider 30x12.5 standard box lens and each truck carried two Schneider 30x26 narrow angle lenses. Mountings were Vinten Mk7 heads. In addition, two LDK15 portable cameras were originally provided. These worked into the LDK5 CCU via the hip pack and a Portable Processing Unit (PPU). These two cameras could provide a lightweight capability to any of the three units. Later the LDK15 cameras were replaced with three LDK14 camera heads using 2/3” tubes and Schneider 14x lenses. These worked into the LDK5 CCUs via an LDK 514 Portable Interface Unit (PIU).
Philips LDK 5 Camera with Schneider 30 x 12.5 Box Lens
                           Philips LDK 15                                     LDK 14
These two cameras could provide a lightweight capability to any of the three units. Later the LDK15 cameras were replaced with three LDK14 camera heads using 2/3” tubes and Schneider 14x lenses. These worked into the LDK5 CCUs via an LDK 514 Portable Interface Unit (PIU). In 1988 the LDK14 camera heads were replaced with Ikegami HL79D cameras working through the same PIU into the LDK5 CCU. In August 1990, to improve the reliability of the handheld cameras, each type 5 was equipped with an Ikegami TA79 triax CCU.
Ikegami HL -79
The type 5s had four operational areas, the cab which could be used as a caption area, Vision control room, Production area with Grass Valley 1600 vision mixer and Sound who had a Neve 24 channel stereo sound desk with four groups and two 10-channel sub-mixers. Sound also had a Studer B62 tape machine and a bay-mounted cassette recorder/player. The BBC Mk2 communication system included a very versatile 50 x 100 pin patch matrix for routing sources and two Storno VHF/UHF transceiver base stations for on-site communications
In 1987 a single camera unit was added to the Manchester OB fleet, this was a Ford Transit panel van (D89FUW) locally built with a single Ikegami TA79 triax CCU running an HL79D camera head, with a location sound mixer and communication set up. There was space for a VPR5 1” video tape recorder. The camera & recorder could also work remote from the van with a monitor for vision control and power all rigged on a folding trolley. Its first shows were the Tom O’Connor Roadshow followed by a location drama  Beautiful Lies.

From January to May 1987 a second single camera unit was formed by taking a camera from the LMCR and pairing it with a second VPR5 1”VTR, this was used for Open Air, the new daytime show from the BBC. This aired every weekday 11:30-12:30 from Studio B in Manchester. In April 1988 the LMCR was renamed North 4 and the SCU became North 5.

In the late 80s and early 90s Tech Ops collaborated with the Film Unit to train two PSC crews equipped with Ikegami HL79D cameras and Sony BVU110 recorders. Film was passing out of favour and PSC was the up and coming format. The relative portability of the new kit made travel all over the world possible enabling Manchester PSC crews to do Rough Guides and the Russell Harty Show in far and wide locations. In May 1988 a third kit was established with a Sony BVP330 camera. In October 1988 two LDK90 frame transfer CCD cameras replaced the HL79s and in  November two Thomson 1640 IT CCD cameras were added. These four new cameras were equipped with docking Sony BVP5 Beta SP backs. BVP35 Beta SP field recorders and a BVP50 field recorder / player were also available.
The SCU was retired in April 1993, the requirement for 1” VTR single camera units having been replaced with firstly Beta SP then Digibeta camcorders
 
In the late 80s BBC Manchester’s Studio A was closed for a major enlargement and refit. During this time a new temporary studio was created at Brunswick Dock, Liverpool. This was serviced by the ex-Scot 1 type-4  CMCR 17 (LUU374P), using EMI 2005 cameras from Studio A in preference to the ex-Scottish Link 110 cameras.  A side was cut out of the vehicle to make an enlarged production gallery. The Liverpool Studio replaced Studio A from early 1988 until March 1991, initially as a drive-in using one of the operational scanners.
 
Type 4 CMCR 17 From BBC Scotland
                 Sony BVP 70                          Sony BVP 370
In May 1991 both North 2 and North 3 received new cameras to replace the original Philips ones. Each truck received 2 x Sony BVP 370 & 4 x BVP 70 FIT CCD cameras working into Sony CCU370 CCUs. There was also a full complement of new lenses and mountings including box 20:1 & 55:1 lenses, a standard 18x lens for each lightweight and a couple of Fuji 8.5 x 5.5 wide angles along with new Vinten Mk7 pan and tilt heads and Vision 20 lightweight head and legs. This brought about a big improvement in picture quality, it also reduced the need for skilled engineers who could get good pictures out of the 'tube based' cameras and the hours taken to line them up.

Big changes started to come along in 1993 as the three type-5 scanners neared the end of their working lives. North 1 type-5 was withdrawn in 1993 (last show 10th April 1993: MOTD Man U v Sheff W) followed by North 3 (last show racing from Haydock Park Monday 3rd May 1993) and finally North 2 in 1994. The arrival of North 2’s replacement in Manchester was delayed as it was “borrowed” by Kendal Avenue to cover modification work on their early type-8 CMCRs.

 

 
The three type-5 units were replaced by a brand new North 1 type-8 (L227GUW), CMCR66  and two ex-National Regions type-6 units: Wales 1 (D358FUW) and Scot 2 (E38EOY). The ex-Scot 2 type-6 unit now titled Unit 29 entered service with Ice Hockey from Whitley Bay 10th April 1993, followed by Ice Hockey back in Scotland before travelling to London for the London Marathon from Horse Guards Parade. The ex-Wales unit became Unit 39 and entered service for Manchester as the Transmission gallery for World Snooker from Sheffield on 15th April 1993. It was renamed North 3 on 6th May 1993 for Badminton Horse Trials (Remote site OB).
 
CMCR56 (H699XUU). The unit arrived without any cameras, so the Ikegami HL55s were installed and the unit became North 4.

During 1993 North 3 received an upgraded Production area with an expanding side and a new Grass Valley 200 vision mixer.
 
Following the introduction of “Producer Choice” the facilities in Manchester were re-organised into Production Facilities Groups, with a split between Television and Radio. Radio facilities were absorbed back into the BBC along with regional broadcasting. Both these areas were deemed not suitable for commercial operations.
On 3rd October 1994 the Manchester TV OB business was merged with London TV OBs, the units and crew remained in the North but management of the operation transferred to Kendal Avenue. The TV OB group took over the transport building and the former scanner hall was turned into office space. The BBC Manchester Studio and Post Production business continued until 2000 before being merged into “360 Media”, based at Granada Quay Street, once it had received approval frm the Department for Digital,Culture, Media and Sport.
In January 1994 the Manchester units were, North 1 type-8  CMCR 66 (L227GUW), North 2 type-6 CMCR 49 (E38EOY), North 3 type-6 CMCR 48 (D358FUW) and North 4 type-7 CMCR56 (H699XUU). The first three were all equipped with 6 x Sony 370 CCU operating 2 x BVP370 & 4 x BVP70 CCD triax cameras and North 4 had 4 x Ikegami HL55 CCD cameras running on TA79 triax CCU’s.
 
During the winter of 1994-95 North 2 was out of service for conversion to the BBC’s first Serial Digital outside broadcast unit, with an expanding side to the production area. It had a Grass Valley 4000 vision mixer and 8 x Ikegami HL466 4 CCD cameras and full complement of new CCD grade lenses. The cameras and lenses were widescreen switchable. Its first OB was MOTD from Norwich on 29th April 1995. To identify it as a Digital unit the name was changed to DCR1 (Digital Control Room 1). The original Calrec analogue sound desk remained. There was also space created for four cassette based VTR’s either Beta SP with outboard Digital to Analogue converters or Digibeta. This allowed the one truck to record a Main, Backing & two ISO recordings without the need for a separate VT truck.
 

 
BBC Unit 6 - Formerly North 1
That was more or less the way things were until 21st March 2001 when BBC Television OBs, Manchester, closed down. On that day there was a final Closedown Party in the Transport Garage and all the remaining assets were transferred to the BBC’s London OB base at Kendal Avenue, Acton. Sometime following the takeover by Kendal Avenue, the North designation was dropped with North 1 becoming Unit 5, DCR1 becoming Unit 6, North 3 becoming Unit 7 and North 4 becoming Unit 24.
 
BBC Unit 4 Formerly North

During 2007 BBC Tel.OB’s moved out of Kendal Avenue to a new base at Langley, Berkshire, just outside the M25 so as to qualify as “out of London production”. The BBC sold its Tel.OBs division to SIS in April 2008. In September 2013 SIS Live failed to win any BBC Sport contracts and shortly afterwards in March 2014 it announced the closure of its OB business, with the staff being made redundant. Some found work in Media City and some retired. Most entered the freelance market working on, for example BBC Match Of The Day, but for the new supplier CTV. This was the end for many ex-BBC Manchester OB crew who had worked in studios and on OB’s for many years.
 
 
Postscript  :-
           
       North 1 type-5 was stripped out and failed to sell at the Mcr Commercial Vehicle Auction. It was subsequently re-fitted as a wardrobe truck in the Midlands. Many years later it appeared on E-bay much the worse for wear!
     
      North 2 type-5 and North 3 type-5 were both exported to Nigeria
 
      North 1 type-8 / Unit 5 was transferred to BBC Northern Ireland.
 
      North 4 was scrapped, but its Calrec sound desk was sold and transferred to the privately restored LO23 (type-7). 
 
       Unit 6 (ex-North 2) was scrapped and its digital kit was used as the basis for Unit 10, a new double expanding trailer unit with Production, Sound, Vision and three on-board VT areas.
    
       Unit 7 (ex- North 3 type 6) ended its BBC days in use as a drive-in gallery at Elstree for “Top Of The Pops”. Before being sold off, it was refitted with serial digital kit and exported.                                                                          
 
                           
                                
MICHAEL COX  1932 -2022
To all of those who knew Michael Cox, it was of great sadness to hear that he had past away on the 1st April. I can't say I knew him well but I was in awe of his name and reputation as an enterprising broadcast engineer and designer. In 1979, I was working for a production company in London. There were Sony Cameras and Bosch Fernseh VTs and then there was the Cox vision mixer. While, not surprisingly, Mr Sony or Mr Bosch never came into our studio, Michael Cox did on a couple of occasions and I was duly impressed by the man.
Norman Green was a colleague and good friend of Michael Cox
and has written the following obituary
Michael Hubert Cox, a giant in the evolution of the UK colour television industry, died on April 1st, 2022 after a long illness.
 
Michael, known to everyone as Mike, was born in Lancashire in 1932 and was the son of a Church of England vicar whose parish for seven years from 1933 was at the British Church, in Marseille in Southern France. At the outbreak of WWII, Mike and his mother returned to the UK to live in Oxford, where Mike attended The Dragon School. During this part of his education, Mike won a scholarship to Dulwich College which resulted in the family moving to live in South East London. On leaving Dulwich College in 1950 with university entrance qualifications, Mike went to University College London to study for a BSc in Electrical Engineering. At UCL he was a member of the Students Union Council and he participated in many of the student ‘rag’ activities, even once being arrested at a demonstration in 1953 resulting in him and his cohorts spending the night in the cells at Bow Street Police station before, luckily, all were released from custody without charge! Whilst at UCL, Mike joined the British Amateur Television Club and it was here, in 1955, that he built a television flying spot film scanner.  
 
Mike did his National Service with the Fighter Control Unit, University of London Air Squadron.  He graduated in 1957 having had to re-sit the mathematics year, but he used his spare time in that year to good effect by tutoring other students! After National Service Mike joined the Marconi company in Chelmsford, on their Graduate Apprenticeship course. Participating with him on the Marconi course were many engineers who became prominent figures in the broadcast industry and who, in due course, were instrumental in setting up television systems around the world, particularly in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Upon completion of the Marconi course, Mike went to work for Frazer Nash Electronics in Walton-Upon-Thames for a year.  
 
In 1959, Mike joined Associated Rediffusion at Wembley as a studio maintenance engineer where he built an iconoscope camera in his spare time!
 
Then, in 1961 Mike joined ABC Television at their Teddington Studios, initially as planning engineer, then as Independent Television’s (ITV) only colour development engineer for some years. Here, he was involved in the investigations and demonstrations of NTSC, PAL, SECAM and NIR colour systems on 405, 525 and 625 lines.  At ABC Television, Mike worked for Howard Steele, who was the Chief Engineer and who went on to become Director of Engineering at the Independent Television Authority (ITA) in 1966. Whilst Steele was at ABC, he persuaded the ABC Board in 1961 to invest some money in colour television investigation. They carefully considered that they should not replicate the work which the BBC were undertaking on NTSC and, at that time, the recently proposed SECAM system looked as if it had merit as an alternative system. As a result of the colour system investigation work of Mike and his team, Steele was invited to join the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Ad Hoc Group charged with the decision-making of choice of the colour television system for Europe.

 
 
ABC TV Studio 3 - demonstration of 405 line SECAM to the Postmaster General, Ted Short, in October 1966, which convinced the Government to announce in February 1967 that colour television would start in November 1969 on 625 lines PAL and be transmitted on UHF.
Two EMI  204 colour cameras in 1964 at ABC studios
Mike and his small team gave demonstrations of various aspects of SECAM in the Studio at ABC Television to both EBU and CCIR groups. During these demonstrations they got to meet the “great and good” of the European Television fraternity. The first ever SECAM vision mixer was demonstrated during this time, as was recording of programmes on the monochrome (RCA TR22) VTRs which were installed at Teddington.  They also designed and built a lot of other ancillary colour studio equipment because, at the time, it was simply just not available commercially. 

Mike’s team also gave colour television demonstrations to the British General Post Office (GPO) to support a series of lectures which they were giving to interest groups around the UK. For these demonstrations, they required to have a SECAM video source because the alternative NTSC video source from the BBC would not have travelled far on the GPO’s video circuits of the time, due to their bandwidth limitations. The picture sources used in the demonstration were from a Rank Cintel polygon 35mm flying spot telecine machine and a crude colour caption facility consisting of Mike's home built vidicon camera and a colour synthesiser, which was the prototype, of what was later to become known in the industry as the ‘COXBOX’.
 
With the change in Independent Television Franchises in 1968, Mike left ABC Television having made the decision to set up his own television equipment design and manufacturing company, Michael Cox Electronics Ltd (MCE).  The successful uptake in the market of their first product, the aforementioned COXBOX, underpinned the company’s further development, and the company grew significantly, building up a good range of coding, switching and mixing products and, by 1985, the company employed 125 staff.  The “COXBOX” name was given to the product by a German customer (ZDF), who bought one of the first units. In all, some 400 ‘COXBOX’ units were made between 1967 and 1982. 

 
The ABC Clock coloured using a COXBOX
MCE was bought by Carlton Communications in 1985 and Mike left the company shortly afterwards.  In the following year, Mike helped financially with a management buy-out of a company from GEC-McMichael.  Mike became a major shareholder and non-executive director of this new company which was set-up as Vistek Electronics, to manufacture monitors, coders and standards converters. Simultaneously, he set up Cox Associates Ltd and this company produced Test Signal Generators, Title Assemblers and various other electronic television “black boxes”.
Mike joined the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE, now the IET) in 1955, resigned in 1966 due to disagreeing with the Institutes proposed requirements for membership. He re-joined in 1986 and was awarded a Fellowship in the same year. It was during his time at Rediffusion that Mike joined the Royal Television Society (RTS) in 1958 and in subsequent years he became a Member of the RTS Council from 1967-1975, 1977-80 and 1981-84. He was Chair of the RTS Papers Committee from 1967-1975 and in this position, he helped organise the technical papers for the first International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in 1967 of which the RTS was one of the sponsors. He was made a Fellow of the RTS in 1975 and was Chair of the RTS Future Development Committee from 1977-1979.  In 1979, Mike joined SMPTE.  Mike Cox was appointed to the Board of Directors of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 1991 retiring in 2010. Patrick Swaffer, the President of the BBFC declared that Mike was a man full of good of good humour and common sense with a good business brain. He did not interfere with the classification side of the BBFC operation, contributing by just simply working hard to ensure the organisation was well resourced, financially stable and had the facilities to properly discharge its statutory duties and, in this regard, he was very supportive.

Mike was invited to join the IBC Management Committee in 1988, where he became Deputy Chairman in 1991 and then Vice President of IBC in 1998. Mike was deeply involved in the negotiations with the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) in 1996 to allow it and all the other sponsoring organisations, RTS, IABM (International Trade Association for Broadcast and Media Technology), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) and SCTE (Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers) to each have a shareholding in IBC.
In retirement, Mike built his own 3D colour television system in his sitting room and, when completed, took it to various amateur radio clubs and Universities in the South East of the UK with the flat projection screen used for the demonstrations tied precariously to the roof of his Fiat Panda car. On one occasion it fell off whilst he was driving on the M3 motorway, but luckily he was driving on the inside lane!


In 2006, Mike volunteered to help at the Richmond Talking Newspaper (RTN) and Alec Thomas, the then Chair of RTN, recalls Mike using his technical skills and mischievous sense of humour to migrate the whole operation from audio cassettes to digital media without any major problems. This resulted in RTN being one of the first Talking Newspapers in the UK to achieve this transition. Mike also arranged, through his Liberal Party connections, a monthly interview with the MP for Richmond, Vince Cable, to keep listeners informed.
 
Mike had a wonderful sense of humour, was superb at electronic circuit design (as such he had ‘green fingers’) and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him in the industry. 
 
Michael Hubert Cox, electronics engineer, was born on 30th December 1932. He died on April 1st, 2022 aged 89. He had latterly been suffering from dementia.  

Norman Green
Photos - courtesy of Norman Green

 
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      Join our facebook page and we can let you know about forthcoming MCR21 events.
MCR21 will be a the Camberley Car Show in August. In July at Amberley Museum as well as a couple more important events to be annouced soon.
Check out our MCR21 videos on YouTube by clicking on the link below
 
YouTube
BECOME A FRIEND OF MCR21
by setting up a monthly standing order of
£5, £10, £15, or £20.

As well as receiving our quarterly newsletter, Friends will also get regular progress reports and invitations
to our operational and launch days.
Please contact us
Brian Summers or Nick Gilbey
for BTTT bank details
brian@mcr21.org.uk  - nick@mcr21.org.uk
or telephone Nick 07831 219957
 
If you would kindly be willing be make a single donation, the button below will take you to our donation page
 
DONATE
Newsletter March 2022
Newsletter October 2021
Newsletter June 2021
Newsletter Februay 2021
 
 
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MCR21 · The Abbots House · The Street · Charmouth, Dorset DT6 6QF · United Kingdom