Thursday, 17 April 2008

Don't Panic

As I said the other day, it's not very often I talk about work, I don't often have anything to talk about seeing as my job entails watching TV - no really, it does. But we have our fair share of fun and maybe our unfair share of cock-ups: like the time we accidentally put porn to air during the Richard Littlejohn show; or someone sat on the machine and rewound Coronation Street whilst it was on-air; or the time we switched out the local news rooms too early, at the very moment the news presenter was chatting to the director about the affair he was having (that one made the newspapers).

The problem is, is that if normal people make a mistake, press the wrong button, pop to the toilet at the wrong time, then maybe they'll miss a phone call, or send an email without the intended attachment. If we make a mistake, millions of people see it.

That happened this morning. I pressed the wrong button. The studio PA did the usual countdown to the local news and instead of doing nothing (which is what we do now, due to aforementioned cock-ups of switching out loose-lipped news readers), I pressed the button (which is what we've done for the last 10 years).
"What did you do that for?" exclaimed my colleague, Jodie.
"I don't know," I said.
"What do we do now?" she asked.
"I don't know!" I said.
"How do we get back?" she screamed.
"I don't know!!" I screamed back.

Panic was in the air. "Two minutes left on the news" said the studio PA. Right, two minutes to save our arses from the diabolical mess we were now in. We looked at each other with a look that said "you bloody idiots, I can't believe it, what are we going to do, I don't know, hold me, help, I'm glad you're here, pull yourselves together" all in the space of a nanosecond.

"One minute on the news." The PA was counting down to an imminent catastrophe with her calm and unwaivering voice of doom, still oblivious to the chaos we were in.
Jodie threw in her suggestions and like a chess grand master (ahem) I assessed the impact of each possible button press - nothing so far. "30 seconds..." came the voice. Frantic typing put an event into the electronic schedule that would buy us some time - "3, 2, 1..." I pressed the button and we were back.

But we weren't! But some channels were, and some weren't. More frantic button pressing and all looked good. Numerous phones rang and were all answered with "yes, we know, bit busy right now". Our makeshift would only get us out of jail for so long, 3 minutes in fact; the time we had to the next commerciall break. Lose one of these and you're in big trouble!

The PA rang, my hands were shaking and my voice was quivering, still unsure what we were going to do. So far, the viewer at home would hardly have noticed there was a problem. In reality, we were in a mess, and our next actions would either save our bacon, or land us right in it. This is where professional studio crews really come into their own and my garbled explanation of what was happening didn't even phase the PA.

We made the decision to use the backup tape for the next commercial break, realising we would lose commercials (that alone is way more than my annual salary, never mind the fines incurred!), put makeshift events into schedules, pressed emergency buttons and were basically flying by the seat of our pants. "Two to the break." I pressed the button. Please God, let it work. It worked! I could hear Luke Skywalker in my head, "almost there, almost there" as he's flying down the centre of the Death Star.

Calm and collected we knew what we had to do and got on with it, reloading schedules, checking and double checking automation information, events, timing, durations, everything in fact. We might come out of this ok if we could just hold it together for the next 3 minutes and 53 seconds. "Ten on the break...2, 1..."

The GMTV studio sting came up, on all the screens, on all the channels, across all outgoing lines, on all the satellite boxes - it worked! We'd made it! We were back on track! A nervous sigh of relief. And only 30 seconds worth of commercial losses with minor collateral damage on the programme - jesus, how the hell did we manage that?!

Manic giggling ensued. That could have gone a hell of a lot worse and been a complete disaster. But we'd somehow saved the day, somehow. Bizarrely, through the initial panic and not doing anything, we'd saved ourselves. And through that moment of panic, we'd reached a state of calm, clear headed thinking.

Another story to add to my (long) list of 'times I've taken the ITV off air'. Oh you wouldn't believe how many times that actually happens! Professnioial? Us? Yeah, course we are...


Simon said...

People actually watch GMTV???

G as in Chris said...

'Driving in America. DRIVING IN AMERICA!'

MTB Girl said...

LOL!! :-D Yep, one of those moments CG.

And amazingly people do watch GMTV, about 3 million every day - so I think I got away it... ;-)