It’s quiet now. You can hear a pin drop. In twelve hours’ time it will be organised chaos. I am at the BBC TV ‘hub’ in Belfast getting ready for the biggest night not just of politicians’ lives but broadcasters’ too. Tonight is general election result night and we’ll be live on BBC One and Two for hours on end bringing predictions, results and analysis to British people and many further afield.
In my bit of the hub, I handle all the material going ‘across the water’ from here to the David Dimbleby programme in Television Centre London. BBC Northern Ireland is at all of the eighteen counts at eight counting centres throughout the province, bringing breaking results, analysis, and interviews with the movers and shakers. I will be constantly offering material to the central hub in London, which they will accept, reject or just plain ignore. At busy periods they could probably fill four TV channels with election results coming in.
This is the BBC at its journalistic and technical best. Hundreds of hacks working on getting the results, processing them and analysing the team in London. Nothing can go wrong on the night. Little is left to chance. Rehearsals have been taking place for the better part of the last week. All systems tested, none found wanting-so far. From my desk I can talk to sixteen different locations/units to see what’s happening.
In front of me will be sitting the BBC Northern Ireland hub producer. They’re going out live too from 10.00pm until the last result here, probably around six hours later. We’ll share their fruits with the rest of the nations when we can. To my left will be the RTE hub producer from Southern Ireland. They’re going big on this election with a Belfast and a London Studio and a big outside broadcast to boot.
This is my eighth British general election with the BBC and it still gets the adrenalin going after 30 years.
After it’s over – tomorrow afternoon by best reckoning – it is time for the post mortem and the analysis of what went right what went wrong. To that end, I’ll be producing an event for the Media Society next Tuesday at the University of Westminster entitled Who Won the TV Election? (more details at www.themediasociety.com or below).
Enjoy tonight’s coverage on TV, and come along next tuesday to praise or blame the great men and women who put on this quinquennial spectacle. Rocket science it may not be, but at times it isn’t far off.