Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

He's Free!! Oh! Maybe he's not!

Thursday 11th March


I was getting out of my bed, the only one to be had in the whole of the greater Manchester area courtesy of some football match between Manchester United and Inter Milan with a return to Old Trafford from David Beckham when a noisy text message arrived.


It told me that I need not rush to get to Sahid Saleed’s house in Oldham because the satellite truck was going to get on location a bit later than we would have liked because the M6 was closed for roadworks and there were lengthy diversions and speed restrictions most of the way up.


So, when I arrived in the narrow street near in the dark the only sign of life was the Sky News truck with the dish up, the generator rumbling away, a glow coming from the monitors and the cameraman stretched out gently snoring.


The continuing story of the poor little kid being kidnapped in Pakistan was getting stranger and stranger.


His dad had reportedly returned to the UK against the express advice of the Pakistani police.


Soon after I arrived Mark the sound recordist pitched up as did correspondent Richard Gaisford.


At ten minutes to six, only eleven minutes until our first broadcast was due Pete eased the SIS truck between the rows of frost covered cars and parked in a space I had reserved for him by taking up as much space as possible with my car.


The Satellite Truck in Position.


“Can we make the 6?” I asked, expecting to be told no.


“No problem. This is not a U Pod.” a smiling Pete replied as he flicked generator and amplifier switches.


I had the camera cabled up quickly, Mark had Richard wired up with radio mic and a talkback unit from the truck within two minutes.


By the PA’s count in my ear there were four minutes 'til the programme went on air.


“The amps only need one more minute to warm up. Then we’re on.” said Pete with obvious pride.


Over his shoulder I could see one of the monitors flashing black and white lines with bits of noisy interference in between.


I expected to see the colour bars from my camera.


Pete then noticed the same thing and asked if I had cabled up.


Tone from Mark's sound mixer was in its characteristically annoying way whining out of the speakers.


I told him it was and I was sending SDI, my voice disappearing from him as I dashed back to the camera to check.


“Go to analogue.” he quickly replied.


There were now around two minutes to the programme going on air.


I changed the output from the camera and got a thumbs up from Pete.


Then Richard asked, “Why have I got Sky News programme sound?”


At the same time the Sky cameraman was saying that he had lost his talkback.


The truck that had been assigned to us was transmitting talkback on the same frequency as Sky.


Sky had arrived first so the protocol in these situations is that they get to use the frequency.


There was now less than a minute to go to on air.


I called Dave the TD to let him know that Richard did not have talkback so I would give him his cues and count with hand signals.


Dave told me that the lack of talkback was at that point moot because the pictures and sound from us were not broadcastable.


Whilst I was having this brief conversation Mark was an octopus on heat pulling out his talkback units, plugging in cables and manhandling Richard to change his receiver.


The programme was on the air and the news bulletin had started.


“Go back to SDI!” Pete had also been flailing around in the truck with cables.


I quickly changed the output of the camera.


“Don’t know what you’ve done but pictures and sound are both perfect now.” Dave immediately said over the new talkback.


That was the good news.


“Unfortunately we’ve missed the first broadcast,” he added.


That was the bad news.


At least we’d be ready for our next broadcast at six thirty.


Richard retreated to his car to make phone calls about the story and we convened in the truck to have a bit of a post mortem about why the things had not quite gone to plan and what we'd done about it.


The Sky and BBC Further Along the Road.


We were in the middle of discussing the whys and wherefores with still about fifteen minutes to go before our next stint when the sliding door of the truck opened in a rush and Richard said excitedly, “let’s get ready to go guys. He’s been found!”


We went back to the camera position where the Sky reporter was getting ready to do his first broadcast and the BBC producer and reporter were chatting about what to do.


Richard went over and knocked on the front door of the house. He was followed by both the BBC producer and Tom the Sky reporter once he had finished his broadcast.


I had the camera rolling, but there was exactly no movement or sign of life from the house.


The door remained firmly closed and the curtains did not even twitch.


No surprise really given the time of day.


On the other hand very surprising given the news that we were hearing.


Richard, the BBC producer and Sky Reporter Waiting for a Response.


Seemingly the Minister of Justice, no less, in Pakistan had said that little Sahil had been found safe and well.


Our small media pack was now buzzing with this good news.


On the next broadcast Jonathan Swain the GMTV correspondent sent to Pakistan was on air with a live phone report saying that the news over there was that the boy had certainly been found and may in fact already be back in the UK with the father.


We were all rather amazed by this possible turn of events.


Sky and the BBC do their Live Reports.


This already strange and complex story was now reaching heights of incredulity.


Richard was asked from the studio what the situation was in Oldham.


He said that things were all confusing and there had been no movement or comment from the family home and that Greater Manchester police were saying there was nothing that they could do.


“Door!” I exclaimed.


At the same time I was unhitching the camera from the tripod and heading towards the house.


I had seen a flicker of movement through the frosted glass of the front door.


Richard, Mark and I got there first as a bemused looking lady peered out of the door she had half opened.


Richard and the reporters from the BBC and Sky asked if she knew anything.


In a shy timid voice she said they had heard nothing new.


I had recorded locally in the camera, but we hoped that it had been recorded in London do that it could quickly be turned round to be played out t in the next fast approaching broadcast.


The boys in ITN MCR had been on the ball and it was safely in the capacious electronic memory at Gray’s Inn Road and being sent to GMTV.


Jonathan was now live from Pakistan and started the report that then came to us in Oldham.


Richard linked into the piece we had done only moments earlier.


From then on things began to unravel.


The news from Pakistan was now that although the Justice Minister was saying Sahil was safe the police were saying that he wasn’t but soon would be.


Other sources were saying that the father might not be in the UK after all.


Richard gets the Conflicting Information.


GMTV got a few e-mails saying that we had been insensitive going to the door of the family.


Everyone was now in disarray. For every report from a supposedly credible source there was a conflicting report from another credible source.


The only thing that would settle it once and for all was if there was a shot of the poor kid.


If he had been found I could just imagine the madness that would be going on with cameramen and photographers fighting to try and get a picture of him.


From the initial excitement and joy that he was safe the mood changed to one of much more caution and trepidation about reporting what was fact.


When the main GMTV programme finished and LK started we relaxed a little and just stood by in case something real actually happened.


It was with a sense of disappointment and sadness on behalf of a still distraught mother that when the closing credits rolled we packed our kit and said good-bye to our colleagues who were still awaiting further events in the chill sunshine.



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