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Flying the Flag: dock10’s role at Eurovision

TVBEurope talks to dock10's Adam Balcombe about how the facility will be the backbone of the BBC's Eurovision 2023 coverage

As the nation settles down to cheer on Mae Muller at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, a team just down the road will be making sure everyone can watch the BBC’s coverage.

dock10 will once again be the production base for the BBC’s transmission of both semi-finals and the grand final, which are all being broadcast on BBC One for the first time ever. Everything that UK viewers will see on their screens will pass through the Salford-based facility before it makes its way to transmission.

The EBU will be providing the world feed from the Liverpool Arena, which is delivered via satellite and the EBU’s FINE fibre network. These are picked up by the BBC’s Master Control Room (MCR) in London and then sent on existing diverse infrastructure to Salford.

“We bring the contest feeds into dock10 and add the UK commentary, which arrives separately, overlay any graphics that are required for voting, stitch that together and then that’s what we send back down to London to go out to network,” Adam Balcombe, studio manager at dock10, tells TVBEurope.

The team at dock10 use the gallery for HQ3, which includes a Kahuna Maverik vision mixer, Calrec Apollo audio desk, and EVS.

dock10’s multipurpose gallery solution

“The BBC broadcasts the contest in 5.1 surround sound” explains Balcombe. “We have to ensure coherency of the 5.1 audio stems throughout the broadcast chain but also monitor the stereo downmix to ensure a high-quality experience for the vast majority of people who are watching in stereo at home.”

“The EBU Diverged FINE fibre feed is the only one that is clean of sponsor logos, so that’s why we use it as our main for the BBC,” he says. “During rehearsals, we setup our vision mixer to mask-off any logos present on the world satellite feed should we ever need to migrate over to this backup during the BBC transmission.”

“In the very unlikely event that a major issue disrupts all feeds from the live final in Liverpool, broadcasters have further contingencies in place to ensure the transmission can continue, viewers are able to enjoy all performances and vote in order to determine the outcome of the contest.”

Another key role for the dock10 team is ensuring UK commentary is heard alongside the contest’s images. “We use Riedel SIP circuits that have an audio sync pulse during line-up so that our Sound Supervisor can ensure the commentary is married up with the incoming vision,” he adds.

This is dock10’s second year as the BBC’s production base, having delivered last year’s contest from Turin. This time though, the event is taking place just along the M62. “It doesn’t make any difference to us,” states Balcombe. “We’re still receiving everything the same way.”

Asked what the team learned from working on the 2022 competition, Balcombe gives a rueful smile. “The songs are really catchy and by the end of the week you’ve heard them all numerous times” he laughs. “There were about four songs that got stuck in my head for months!”

Is there added pressure with the UK hosting this year’s event? “It’s always a massive show,” says Balcombe, “161 million people watched it around the world last year.

“Maybe some people in the UK were a bit blasé about it because we’ve not done very well in recent years. But the Sam Ryder effect has really put it to the forefront of people’s minds and I think there will be a bumper UK audience watching it this time. It’s a very high-profile show for us to do.”