A few months ago while on my lunchbreak I made a phonecall in German. The call was to the rbb Besucherservice, to enquire about the possibilities of going on a tour of the state broadcaster for Berlin and Brandenburg.
About half an hour away from my hotel (including a short distance on the rail replacement bus service which is in operation between Potsdamer Platz and Gleisdreieck) lies the headquarters of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (styled rbb – note not in capitals): The Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting Corporation.
The headquarters are essentially two buildings: Fernsehzentrum (Television Centre) and Haus des Rundfunks (Broadcasting House). In one building, the TV studios. In the other, the radio studios.
The tour took place entirely in German so needless to say I didn’t understand anything – but I did get quite a lot!
I arrived at the meeting point in the Fernsehzentrum and at 15:00 on the dot the tour guide arrived and introduced himself. Felix told us all to put our mobiles in flight mode, because the engineers don’t like it when they interfere with all their equipment.
Next we went upstairs to a meeting room where we could leave coats and bags etc. Felix showed us a PowerPoint presentation and talked about the setup of rbb and wider ARD, a consortium made up of all of Germany’s regional state broadcasters. Then he asked the most important question of the tour: what does ARD actually stand for?
If you want the answer, it’s Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Not even the Germans got that one right…
Then it was off to have a nose around the building. Our first visit was to the TV studios. Felix explained to us that at 19:30 every day the TV channel rbb Fernsehen splits frequencies for the local news. In Brandenburg, their news is Brandenburg Aktuell, broadcast live from the studios in Potsdam. At the same time live from the studio in which we were standing, Abendschau broadcasts to Berlin. Later in the evening rbb Aktuell broadcasts to both states from a set which occupies part of the same studio.
Once inside the studio, Felix showed us how the autocue works, explained why the TV sets look very small compared to how they look on TV and he showed us the Blue Screen and Green Screen parts of the set.
Then we left the News studio and headed for what looked like a large warehouse. It was in fact Studio A – the largest TV studio in Berlin, and home to shows like Praxis and rbb Sportplatz. Here’s where things got technical: there’s an impressive state of the art installation which is to do with the studio lighting and LEDs. But my German wasn’t good enough to figure out exactly what Felix was trying to get across. I think he was basically saying that at the touch of a button the operator can change the colour of the studio and walls to suit the programme. But that’s all I got.
Then we left the Fernsehzentrum, went over the walkway/bridge which connects the building to Haus des Rundfunks, and went to visit Berlin’s Stadt Radio (City Radio), radioBerlin 88,8. We gathered in a small studio where Felix explained how radioBerlin produces their programmes. Through the glass, we watched the presenter as she introduced the 16:00 news and the newsreader as he read his bulletin.
A few minutes later we left radioBerlin and headed to the smaller of the big performance studios. (The large one looked impressive, but the rbb Orchestra was rehearsing, so I could only peer through the door as we walked past). These studios are used for music performances and radio drama. A clever feature of the smaller studio is that each of the individual panels which make up the walls can be rotated so as to change the material in the walls, therefore altering the acoustics of the room, according to what the producer wants or needs.
Before long, we headed back to the meeting room and collected our bags and coats. I picked up a few leaflets at the same time and as a souvenier, we were all given an rbb keyring. I’m sure I can find a use for that!
By the time I left the building it was dark outside. I headed towards the station and went to find somewhere for dinner.
I’ll write again a bit later.