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.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Stress on "Departure Day". Cairo

Friday 4th

The hotel had told us that none of their rooms had balconies.

So, it came as a pleasant surprise when I had looked out of my large window when we checked in to discover a small enclosed balcony with a view of the city.

My little enclosed balcony.

It was almost perfect for our live broadcasts this morning.

There was the view of the city.

The view.

We had access to the fast hotel internet.

It was discrete. We were not with the rest of the media in their hotel which was now being protected by the army giving them a degree of safety at least whilst they were inside the building.

In our case the two of us were slightly more vulnerable to the thugs that had reportedly been dragging forgone journalists out of their hotels and roughing them up and smashing camera kit.

Also there was the possibility of being picked up by the secret police and whisked away to be questioned for hours and gear confiscated as had happened to many of our colleagues.

So discrete was good.

A huge plus was that I could roll out of bed and be “on location” straight away with Richard doing much the same from across the hall.

When he arrived after sending his voice over for the report compiled overnight at Daybreak in London using the latest pictures and sound form the various sources send out material we set up.

That was where the morning’s stress started.

The internet in the hotel was very good. Richard had sent yesterdays report and his voice over to London very quickly.

I had uploaded photo’s to my blog and they had gone about as fast as I have seen them go.

However, when we tried to connect to Daybreak in London for our live broadcasts the video and sound was so bad that it was totally unusable.

Richard at the mac for one of the first attempts to connect with London.

We switched to the BGAN satellite terminal which was showing a really good signal, actually the best we had all week.

The little BGAN terminal in position with a great signal.

When we connected with that the signal would be strong giving great pictures and sound for a while, then suddenly the signal would just drop for no apparent reason.

These were the two main problems that caused us to miss the first live broadcast.

Richard having another go.

There were other things going on technically that had us banging our heads in deep frustration.

As a back up and because it was, for some reason easy to send material back I recorded a piece to camera report by Richard that could run if we were unable to establish a strong and steady connection to London.

I felt for Richard as he did the piece to camera.

It tool him a few takes to get it right because the build up of stress over the last couple of days and the technical nightmare we were having this morning were taking their toll on his tired brain.

He did get it done and back to Daybreak in time for the next scheduled transmission which, predictably given the morning that we were having we were unable to do live.

It was now getting really annoying and frustrating. Another attempt to connect.

I was having another minor nightmare with the shot of Richard.

The discrete nature of the location was the cause.

We were tucked in between a couple of walls over looking the road below and buildings beyond.

This meant that the light falling on us was reduced a little.

The sky was slightly overcast which was good because it gave an even light over both the background and down on to us.

However, when the sun came out slightly the background was nice and bright but we did not get any of the direct light so Richard became a bit of a silhouette against the backdrop.

I had to hold a little camera light and a powerful torch very close to Richard’s face to provide some kind of balance in the exposure.

It was not ideal and not easy to do because I was having to try and hold the camera steady with no tripod and with my arm outstretched over the camera as close to Richard's face as possible but not in shot I was also having to hold the two lights.

The final straw came when we had established what appeared to be a good strong link with the studio in London.

We were ready to go.

The overnight report that Richard had voiced was playing.

We would be on air very shortly.

Then in a cruel stab and twist of the technology knife.

The programme sound coming from London over the satellite disappeared.

At exactly the same time the talkback from the gallery I was listening to over my Blackberry dropped out.

Was this just a cruel hand dealt by fate or were there more sinister forces at work trying to prevent us broadcasting?

Probably not but, it was a good one for the conspiracy theorists.

The galling thing for us was that London could still see and hear us but we had no way of knowing when they were coming to us.

After a small gap Richard did start his report hoping that it would fit in with what was being transmitted in London and that they would just take us.

Sadly the timing was not right and we had missed another broadcast.

We were gutted that at the end of what had been a good week up until that point ended on such a downer.

Now it was time to get packed up quickly to catch the only flight that we were able to get out on.

It did feel very strange and a bit unprofessional to be leaving the scene of a huge story on the day being called “Departure Day” when it could be so important not just for the country of Egypt but, also for the whole of the Middle East.

The hotel put on a bus to take us to the airport and it was on the way there that we had our final brush with the Egyptian authorities.

The bus was stopped at a roadblock manned by the army. A member of the secret police came up to the window and told the driver he needed to see passports.

There was an Egyptian with a Canadian passport on the bus with us.

He was on his way to organise flights back to Canada.

The plain clothed officer only paid us a passing interest. His focus was on this man.

He was looking for high ranking government officials and businessmen who were trying to flee the country.

He appeared satisfied with our fellow passengers passport and story so he waved us on.

On the land side of the airport it was a throng of chaos both inside and out

The madness inside the terminal.

It was nice to be in a cocoon of calm when we got through security and into the departure lounge.

Bit of a long trip home.

Cairo to Madrid, Madrid to London, a night in a hotel at the airport then a final flight to Edinburgh for me before being back with the family.

On the flight out of Madrid both Richard and I were thinking about the guys still in Cairo.

The control tower at Madrid from our plane as we prepare to taxi.

The Egyptian journalist that had been shot earlier in the week was now dead and a Swedish journalist was in hospital being operated on for stab wounds.

It is a sad reflection that it has become so dangerous for journalists out there trying to get to the truth in a story.

“Inshallah” the country and the region will calm down and the people get peace, freedom and security.

There are many nice friendly honest and sincere people there that do not deserve the chaos of anarchy.

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