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.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Dodgy talkback in Isle of Whithorn

Monday 25th March
Isle of Whithorn

Last night's plan to get comfortable in front of the TV with a glass of wine dissolved, when the call came from Daybreak.

If an engineer could be found to operate the ITV Tyne Tees Border satellite truck I would need to go into the depths of Dumfries and Galloway where the heavy wet snow had brought down many power lines leaving thousands of homes without power.

One of the worst effected was the remote village Isle of Whithorn.

Not that long after the initial call Susanna from the office called to say a volunteer had been found. We were go for live broadcasts in the morning.

So, I set off, suitably equipped for snow, to an hotel that had been organised for me in Newton Stewart.

Correspondent Nick Dixon was on his way from London.

At around ten pm I got to the hotel which was full of electricity workers drafted in to repair the damage caused by the snow. The journey had been surprisingly easy and free of snow.

I managed a few hours sleep. A bit later than me Nick arrived in the rather flash BMW hire car he had been given because there were no 4x4s available at the airport.

I met him at four fifteen in the small reception area of the hotel for the forty minute drive to Isle of Whithorn.

The snow had already started to disappear from the roads and fields. However, for stretches we drove along a road flanked by high walls of snow made by the ploughs and blowers when they had been working full out to keep the routes open.

Dave had the truck all set up when we pulled into the Saint Ninian's Hall car park and was starting to get the camera cable rigged.
The ITV Tyne Tees Border news truck.. the community hall car park
This was the emergency centre for the local community.
Inside the hall
The first thing that Nick and I were aware of was that all the street lights were on, as were the lights in the hall and there was no snow at all.

We had come to cover the story of a place with no power.

The next thing that struck us when we went into the hall was that there was no-one there and the supplies of food that had obviously been brought in were unopened.
The powerful space heater that was never used
Kenny, one of the community leaders was in the hall. He told us that the power had been restored yesterday early evening. It was from a generator, not the main but, at least the locals had heat and light.

They had spent a total of sixty hours without either.
The room at the back of the hall with facilities for making hot drinks and food
On the face of it we appeared not to have a story.

Nick called the office to let them know.

They wanted us still to do a couple of live broadcasts to tie in with Richard Gaisford and a crew in Northern Ireland where the conditions were still pretty bad.

So, we did a few live shots and the two main broadcasts asked for.
Photograph that I tweeted of the sunrise over the village
We did have one very annoying problem. The mobile phone signal in the area was very bad indeed, almost non-existent.

The only phone that had any sort of signal was the one on the satellite truck and we needed that for the talkback. There was a land line that worked but, we did not have the kit to allow it to be used for the talkback source.

The frustrating thing was that the quality of the sound from the talkback was so bad that it was virtually just white noise.

We could just about make out the odd word but were far from being able to hear anything resembling a conversation.

Nick had to figure out what was being said over talkback. Then repeat it back and ask if he was correct by getting a single word response.

It must have been equally, if not more frustrating for the guys at the other end in the gallery, because they could see and hear us perfectly. It would have been difficult for them to get their head around the fact that we could only hear what was in essence a fuzzy noise.

The viewers would have been totally unaware of that because Nick managed to pick up the cues. We got away with it again.
Walls of cleared snow still there on the drive back
The snow might not have been too much of a hazard but, sheep can always be one

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