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, 18 March 2011

Final broadcasts from Japan, for now.

Friday 18th

It was not too early a start this morning which was nice after our rather special meal last night.

We felt a little spoiled because we had time to have breakfast as well.

The plan was that we needed to speak to some people who were fleeing the country preferably British.

The day would involve a lot of driving around so to save on the expensive taxis we thought that hiring a driver with a car would be cheaper.

We were right and Arata with a friend in every corner of Japan knew just the man, Kento from Kobe.

He knew all about earthquakes. After the Kobe quake a few years ago he had been forced to live in a tent for six months.

The only thing was that it would take him a little while to get to us.

That was fine by me I could fill the time making some space in the laptop and putting in the material that I had shot yesterday.

When he arrived in his little dark blue van we went out to Kansai airport to see if we could find any Brits trying to get out of the country.

We spent a frustrating hour hunting but only coming up with French, Dutch, Germans and a very nice Japanese lady from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who was there to help anyone from the UK that needed help but, like us was not having much luck.

We had been told not by any reliable source but was the only lead we had that there were a stack of British people at the Sheraton hotel in the city.

It was a bit of a drive but there were no other useful options that we could come up with.

When we got to the huge hotel the stylishly dark interior was not exactly buzzing with people from any country never mind a specific one like Britain.

We did find an American who had come down from Tokyo to be safe and then a guy from Melbourne who had a pregnant Japanese wife and had come to Osaka from their home in Fukushima.

It might not have been the jackpot but it would do as a consolation prize.

He was happy to give us a quick interview. Unfortunately he was not keen on us getting shots of his wife and anyway she was not around.

We had to work quickly now because we were due on air in two hours and the report needed to be written, edited and sent to London.

Added to that we did not have a location for the live broadcasts. That was a bit of a worry because we were surrounded by tall buildings. Chances of a nice clear shot of the sky to see the satellite seemed slim.

I would need to go hunting and that would take time.

Sitting on the floor in the corner of the Sheraton’s bottom floor lobby was the only place I could quickly find that had access to a power socket.

I got on with the edit as fast as I could.

It was done and encoded just ready to send.

There was no easy internet access in the hotel so it would have to go over the satellite.

Editing in the luxury surroundings of the Sheraton.

Now I had forty five minutes to find a location that would enable me to get the BGAN terminal locked onto the satellite, send the report and set up for a live broadcast.

Throwing the laptop into the case after I had grabbed the BGAN terminal I ran out of the hotel with it hoping that Cordelia and Arata would take my cue and bring the little case and the other bits and pieces out behind me.

I switched the terminal on as I exited the hotel.

The hope I had was that the satellite might be in line with the wide road.

I had not had time to orientate myself with which direction I needed to look.

The slow steady beep and single green light coming from the BGAN told me there was no satellite to be seen.

I ran across the road waving the dish above my head in all directions, the camera slung over my shoulder by its strap banged and flapped against my leg and hip.

I was hoping to hear a quickening of the beeps that would indicate a satellite.

There was a cross roads a few yards ahead I ran towards is still pointing the dish forwards, backwards and from side to side in a somewhat vain attempt to get a signal.

It was little wonder that passers by on the street were paying us some attention, two demented westerners running along the street, one brandishing a strange white beeping box and a bewildered Japanese guy following close behind.

There was no joy at the junction. I kept on going I had spotted a building that was a bit lower than the rest and I had by then hoped that I had worked out that that was the direction of the bird.

I cleared the shadow of the big building with the dish pointing up to the gap above the smaller one.

A very welcome chirrup let me know I’d been right and we were in business.

There was a convenient bin or whatever it was that I could put the BGAN on as it did its thing and found the satellite properly.

The laptop and the BGAN up and running.

There was now less than half an hour until transmission and our first live broadcast.

Shoving the bits that needed to be shoved into the laptop I switched it on and connected it to the BGAN.

It was getting close but there was a chance the report would get there in time.

I sent it on its way.

Whilst it was trudging through the ether to London I got the camera, microphone and talkback set up.

The screen on the laptop indicated that the piece was not yet in London.

Strange I thought.

Then I saw that the lights on the BGAN had all gone out.

Although it had been on charge all night something must have happened.

I quickly banged in the spare.

It only had a small charge.

That would need to do.

I could have done without all this stress.

The report finished sending.

Arata had managed to find me a power socket that I could get access to in the building beside us.

I took the BGAN into the building to give it a charge that I hoped would be enough to last for the first live broadcast. Once that was done there would be time to get it sorted for all the rest.

Then my phone rang.

On the phone to London.

It was Dave the technical director at Daybreak to tell me that the report had indeed arrived but Cordelia’s voice was not on it.

As soon as he said it I knew what was probably the reason.

It was a finger click fault on my part.

When I had sent the edited piece to be encoded I didn’t check that all the audio tracks had been selected.

I ran back into the building and grabbed the BGAN. Any charge in it now would have to do.

While it was locking on to the satellite I re-encoded the report. This time with the audio correctly set.

There would now be little, in fact no chance of it getting to Daybreak before the start of the programme or by the time Cordelia was due to be broadcasting.

It was not due to run until a few moments after Cordelia did her live report.

There was a slightly added complication on this one.

There was an interview that needed to be edited into the report when it arrived in London before it was transmitted.

It was about half way gone by the time I had to stop and prepare for the live broadcast.

As soon as it was done I continued the send.

I called Ian the programme organiser. He told me that it had arrived and was being edited.

Then I called in to listen to gallery talkback. It sounded to me as if they were on the item that should have contained the report.

If I had been a contortionist at that point I would have kicked my own arse the length of the long wide Osaka street we were on.

I was giving myself a damn good talking to and feeling pissed off because I knew that if it did not run now there was no way that it would run at all.

I cut the call.

My phone rang straight away it was Ian to say that they had managed to get it edited and the order of the item had been altered and the report wad on air as he spoke.

I was relieved and thankful to the guys in London that had turned the thing round so quickly after my stupid schoolboy error.

There was also a bit of a deliberate mistake in the report that only someone with the knowledge of Japanese dialling codes and iPhones would notice.

When I spotted the error I did not have the time to fix it, for obvious reasons.

Part of the report contained a recorded message from a British consulate in Japan.

I had recorded the sound from the Osaka office but when I took a shot of the iPhone to use over the sound the number on the display was for the office in Tokyo.

In the original running order of the programme after 6:17 am our contribution was over and we were just to be on standby.

It is always a real bore to be hanging around just in case.

So when the call from the office came to say that we would be needed in the rest of the news bulletins we were happy having something to do.

Setting up for the live broadcasts.

Arata and Kento being typical Japanese.

Cordelia standing-by to broadcast.

In between broadcasts Cordelia gets e-mails from London.

When the programme went off air our job in Japan was over. I would have been nice if the same could be said for the fifty brave guys trying to get the reactors at Fukushima back to a safe state, the rescue workers still out in the inaccessible areas of the country searching for survivors and the poor people left homeless after the tsunami had gone leaving nothing but destruction behind.

Not for the first time and not for the last we felt a tinge of guilt as the full Daybreak team; Cordelia, Richard. Hannah, Kyle, Arata and I had a reunion and final meal at a Japanese Korean BBQ restaurant. We were joined by an old friend of Kyle's and Hannah's boyfriend Tom.

The Daybreak team and friends.

The locals having a meal....

....and being typical Japanese.

Not so much fish or noodles tonight.

A lot of the talk was about what we had seen and what the future holds.

Cordelia, Hannah and Tom.

For Arata it is setting up a volunteer programme based up north in Aomori to give aid to the people around the Sendai area who have been dispossessed.

A lot of the phone calls he had been making during the week were about getting that organised.


Kyle, a photographer had taken a lot of shots of the devastation when he had been with Richard and was keen to get them published and use the money to help.

Richard and Kyle.

Tomorrow we will start our journey home via Paris although it will be Sunday before I get there.

The work of doing the broadcasting and telling the story might have been over but there we foresaw some stress ahead for the next few days.

There was a list of things that would need to be dealt with: We needed to pay Arata in cash and Cordelia's card would not work in the ATMs anymore. The kit that had been left in Tokyo had to be sent back to the UK. The mobile phones and internet hubs that we had hired would have to be returned.

The big issue that I was not looking forward to dealing with was the Customs Carnet. I had left it in one of the flight cases deposited at the the hotel in Tokyo.

I would leave the country without getting it stamped and I would not have all the kit with me that was on the list.

When it came back in the box I would need to contact Customs in the UK and sort it out.

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