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.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The First Big Debate

Wednesday 15th March

“All we want is honesty”.

That was the message that came across in almost all of the vox pops that producer Ravi and I did on the streets of Manchester as the sun went down yesterday.

The question that was asked was, “What do you want from the party leaders in the first televised debate?”

Sadly none of the leaders or any other viewers of GMTV would have heard that message because although they were sent to London they were not transmitted.

A combination of a lack of time available and the breaking news that a cloud of volcanic ash was causing a lot of Britain’s airports to be closed was responsible for that.

The morning was crisp, clear and dark when John Stapleton, Ravi and I arrived at the gates of the Granada Studio car park as the clock was preparing to strike five.

We had our bags checked and were issued little pink wrist bands before we could get into the car park.

At First Light Sky Start Getting Kit Out.

In the warmth of the Granada reception area I recorded a voice over with John for a preview report about the upcoming debate.

The taped report had already been edited at GMTV in London and just needed John’s narration to be added.

Mike in the ITN satellite truck then sent the voice over along with the vox pops to GMTV.

On a little gantry I set up my camera ready for the start of the programme.

No sound recordist this morning.

Ravi and John go Through the Running Order.

I put a microphone and talkback pack on John’s belt and stuck the business ends where they needed to go.

The titles finished and John was off, talking about the upcoming live televised debate that would be on ITV in the evening.

Doing the Broadcasts.

Sky were beside us doing the same thing.

Our neighbours, Sky News.

The security for the event was pretty stiff. As the morning progressed a succession of squads of police officers and a few of their trusty mutts were going in and out of the building searching it.

The Granada Building at Dawn.

In a scene like that of a murder investigation they even walked in a line across the almost empty part of the car park scanning the tarmac.

The Police Gather to Start the Sweep Search.

The "Tactical Aid Units" in the Granada Car Park.

The status of our story as the lead had gone by the final few broadcasts because of the eruption of the volcano in Iceland which was starting to cause complete chaos to air traffic over the UK.

None the less we had a busy morning and apart from the sun rising brightly almost directly in the direction the camera was pointing causing me to change the shot and Ravi having to utilise a big reflector borrowed from the Sky cameraman things went off without a major hitch.

It was slightly surprising that throughout the morning the BBC platform remained lonely and bereft of personnel.

The BBC Truck, Dish up but All Quiet.

Ready for Action? The BBC's Little Gantry.

An hour or so before the start of the momentous event in television history out pretty pink wrist bands allowed Ravi and I back in to the Granada car park where we loitered with intent to wait.

We did not have shiny gold bands or bright red ones so we had to be escorted by a chap with a purple band up to the Granada newsroom where we watched the debate with our colleagues from ITV news.

The Granada Newsroom.

We wanted to speak to some of the people who had asked questions in the debate.

Most of them were going to be going on to the Jonathan Dimbleby post debate discussion programme.

When the debate programme was about to finish we nipped back down to the car park to wait with Sky, the BBC and Granada for members of the audience to be brought down to us to be interviewed about their opinions on how the debate had gone.

Some of the Satellite Trucks.

Our Truck Beside Granada's.

It was one of those many surreal television situations as a crowd of slightly bemused people were dragged over to various cameras by a variety of reporters and producers to be asked the same range of questions.

We had decided that the sensible thing for us to do was that it would be best to each do a handful of the audience and then swap all our material.

ITV News Doing one of the Interviews.

Ravi gets the details.

That was done and Ravi had all the details of the questioners so that they could be asked to appear on the programme live in the morning.

All that was needed now was to make sure all the tapes were sent via the satellite to London to be distributed to the "ITV Family".

The Tape is sent.

The activity moved from dashing around getting interviews to journalists making phone calls to newsdesks and the technical guys getting things packed away.

When that bit of activity was finished it was off to bed for the majority to enjoy a good nights slumber.

For Ravi and me, we were off to get as much sleep as possible before having to drag ourselves back for live broadcasts in about five hours time.

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