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The Logistics of Broadcasting - Visit to BBC Scotland: Tuesday 6 September 2005

Scottish Region members inside Studio B at BBC Scotland.d

Scottish Region members wih David Kerr (Centre) inside Studio B at the BBC's Queen Margaret Drive premises.

© John G. Fender 2011

For the first event of the 2005 - 2006 session, the Scottish Region was privileged to be able to visit the BBC's premises at Queen Margaret Drive and see the production of "Reporting Scotland", the Scottish early evening news programme.

The BBC moved into North Park House in Queen Margaret Drive from its older premises in West George Street in 1935. Originally the new premises was surrounded by gardens and tennis courts, but these went as the BBC extended the building. Now with the forthcoming move to the BBC's new premises at Pacific Quay next year, it is intended to restore North Park House and the Mackintosh building to their original condition.

The history of the BBC in Scotland can be traced back to 1923 when Station 5SC began broadcasting from the attic at 202 Bath Street, Glasgow. Lord Reith, founder of the BBC decided that Glasgow would be it's Scottish base and 1924 had opened relay stations in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. As the BBC expanded, new premises were acquired in Blythswood Square and then in West George Street, before the move to Glasgow's West End. With the introduction of television, changes to the building were required and in 1971 further upgrading was carried out to enable colour programmes to be made. Today, the Broadcasting House in Queen Margaret Drive is responsible for a wide range of Scottish programming and is the home of the flagship "Reporting Scotland" programme.

David Kerr, an Assistant Editor on "Reporting Scotland" outlined the process of putting the programme together. He pointed out that logistics is a crucial part of broadcasting and although journalists know what is available, they are constrained by technical limitations, for example, there is only a certain number of video editing suites or satellite vans available. This results in editorial decisions to make the best use of the available resources. In putting together the evening news programme, some stories will be "pencilled in" in advance and the editorial team will work out the angle to be taken on the stories. Approximately one third of the programme will be planned in advance, with the rest being left blank.

An editorial meeting is held in the morning to decide the final composition of the programme and this involves all of the offices around the country, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Selkirk and Shetland. At this meeting, held at 0930, stories and ideas will be discussed and events that are taking place looked at with the editor deciding what goes into the programme. Production aspects are considered, for example, how to tell a story whether to have a reporter coming "live" from an event via a satellite link, using the satellite vans available for "Reporting Scotland".

It may be decided to use a "package", a pre-produced video film from a reporter lasting anything between 1½ to 2½ minutes in duration. The meeting will also decide on the angle to take, who should be interviewed and consideration will be given to the visual requirements. This enables the reporter to go out with a team and undertake the filming required, along with the interviews. Next this material is edited into a comprehensible story and the script written and recorded. The final "package" is then ready for broadcast as part of the news programme.

For the top story on the evening of the visit, the editor had chosen to feature the Scottish Executive's announcement of the forthcoming legislation in the new session of the Scottish Parliament and a central part of this new legislation was a tightening of bail conditions following the recent Rory Blackhall murder as the murderer was on bail at the time of the crime. This story involved the BBC's political correspondent putting together a 2-minute film in the studio at the Scottish Parliament and he would also be interviewed live during the Reporting Scotland programme. The second story was that of a Scottish couple who had been stranded in New Orleans and who had just returned to Scotland. They had been filmed arriving at Glasgow Airport and the "package" was sent to the Inverness office for editing. The finished film was then returned to Glasgow for use in the programme.

David Kerr then outlined the rest of the programme's content, including features on a new baby ambulance service, a leak of confidential information that will delay a major PFI initiative in Edinburgh and the sports news. After a short question and answer session, the party went to the newsroom where the various story's are put together and which includes a small studio used for the shorter news bulletins. After a brief explanation of the various activities undertaken in the newsroom, the party went to the gallery of studio B and was able to see the final preparations for the transmission of the main "Reporting Scotland" programme.

At this point, the main 6 O'clock news was underway and we able to see the handover from London to Glasgow and were able to watch the production team working as the programme was transmitted. The Director sits in front of a bank of monitors and is able to control the programme, making decisions to drop items if necessary. Whilst we were there, a couple of items were dropped due to time constraints. We were able to see how the various pre-recorded "packages" were fed into the programme at the right point, all timed to the second. After watching the programme, the party visited the studio, already being prepared for the "Newsnight Scotland" programme and David Kerr answered many more questions on various matters. Before leaving, the members were given a BBC Scotland "goody bag" with various in is as a souvenir of the visit, which was judged to have been an excellent way to commence the year's programme of events.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Blair Jenkins for allowing the visit to take place and Isobel Mitchell for her assistance; David Kerr, Assistant Editor for taking the time to explain how "Reporting Scotland" is produced and the production team for allowing us to watch them at work.

Report by John Fender.


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