BBC News: 30yrs signed

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I bring to an end regular interpreting with BBC News.

Anthony Mitchell

Over the last 30 years my days interpreting for BBC News would begin with a 3.30am alarm call and then a 90 minute drive to Broadcast Centre, ready for the 6:45am transmission. Once in the office I’d research the top news, sport and weather reports both domestic and international.

‘Story research’ is vital in order to sign any news story, it is necessary to investigate the players, their roles and the event in question, to ensure the interpretation is the best it can be. An understanding too of the line of the journalist or reporter’s angle of questioning is essential in order to reflect the tenor of each news item.

Standing in the studio, on my own may seem from the outside to be a rather isolated existence. But when I am in the studio, I do not find it difficult to remember why I am there. I am acutely aware of the limited access the Deaf community have, compared to their hearing counterparts, to programming.

Signing Studio 2

The Deaf community, who watch, have always been brutally honest with their feedback, making my work easier to modify, improve and get right. The generous support from colleagues too is invaluable.

Going forward you may not see my face on your TV screen so often but trust me, I’m in the community working hard and increasingly on remote for you. Look forward to seeing you there.

Television Centre, W12

Where I started

I began interpreting live news in the early 1990s before the BBC News Channel launch in November 1997. Back then, the BBC would show a simultaneous transmission of BBC One’s 8am news programme on BBC Two for just 15 minutes each weekday morning with a team of ‘in-vision’ interpreters, one of whom was me.

BBC online wasn’t launched until December 1997. No social media; twitter, Facebook or news websites; – only newspapers, the radio and television were available to prepare.

Anthony Mitchell

This opportunity came about because I was already an interpreter for the BBC’s See Hear! programme. Bryn Brookes, the then Series Producer, initiated a joint project with BBC News. The transmission would go from the 6th floor of Television Centre in a small News studio.

Signing Studio 1

Bryn Brookes would later over see the first dedicated ‘signing studio’ on the ground floor at Television Centre. From here; News, live events and pre-recorded programmes were recorded every day by a team of both staff and freelance interpreters.

Pre-recorded programmes began to gain momentum after the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which has now been repealed and replaced by the Equality Act 2010. The law requires broadcasters’ to provide an increasing percentage of their output in an accessible format; sign, subtitles and audio description.

Genre of programmes; comedy, panel shows, current affairs, and childrens programmes. These programmes were all BBC programmes, only later, following a new contract, did other broadcasters begin to provide accessible programmes.


Programme genres were increasing and began to include Arts, Entertainment, Documentaries and drama. Driven by legislation, the industry and the Deaf community. During the summer of 2005, ATG Danmon was asked to equip a Signing Studio for Red Bee Media at Broadcast Centre in London’s White City. The installation was built in 2003 to cater for the future needs of the media industry.

A new contract for Red Bee Media, previously BBC Broadcast, to deliver more than 60,000 hours of access services per year to BBC channels and networks. This heralded a new era in accessible programming; Sign, subtitles and audio description. Genre of programming began to increased to include documentaries, drama, history, arts and entertainment.

Red Bee Media is a leading global managed media services company with 2,300 media experts across Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and North America.

Every day, millions of people across the globe discover, enjoy and engage with content prepared, managed, broadcast, streamed and distributed through their services. Through technical and operational innovation they contribute to the development of the media industry, while enabling business transformation and continuity for customers.

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