Thursday, 14 May 2015

TV news cameraman and General Election trail tribulations.

As a TV news cameraman, the past month or so has been somewhat busy, but mostly it has been weeks of following the fortunes of wind bags of various political hues around voting districts of this green and pleasant land.

Eventually, the battle over who gets to suck the will to live, money and all hope for the future out of the British populace came to an end. For those of you reading from warm, sunny and well governed countries and don't particularly care, the British General Election has now come to a close and one political party who once shared power, now have all of the power, and the love and admiration of all the British people for the next week or so...

For now though, things are settling down nicely into the post election phase of smugness, recriminations, in fighting and outright hostility. We did however, lose a few leaderships and well known political heavyweights to the will of the people... So all is well.

I have though, noticed a few things on my travels around the patch. Things are certainly changing in the news industry on a sliding scale of 'This is a good thing,' to 'Oh, Christ... we're all doomed.' And that wasn't because i had seen the election candidates, oh no...

This is Mims... After winning the Eastleigh trestle table stacking championships, 2015.

This is Flick... After covering up the F on her poster, her message seems entirely inappropriate.

On a lighter note, in two constituencies i happened to film in, we had candidates called 'Flick' and 'Mims.' Yes, you read that right, 'Flick and Mims.' I for one want these two to be running a Government Department such as the 'Ministry of cutesy nicknames,' or the 'Ministry of nicknames that in no way suggests sexy-slang.' Hey, they both got elected, so this is entirely possible. I will be lobbying for it at Parliament with my MP, 'Bunty,' now in charge at the 'Ministry of jolly hockey sticks.'

What i also noticed was the plethora of media recording equipment deployed by various broadcasters and media outlets. I lost count of the differing numbers of cameras, formats, lenses and livestreaming capabilities. From traditional TV news cameras and satellite trucks, to TV cameras attached to LiveU's and Teradeks, to mobile phones live streaming on Periscope or Meerkat.

Recorded media went out live on tv and radio, live on the internet via Twitter, YouTube, blogs, newspapers, websites. Recorded, stored, stored and forwarded, streamed and FTP'd. It seemed that different broadcasters and media outlets had a different way of doing it, but one thing was for sure, the speed at which we were doing it has certainly changed the reporting and TV news cameraman landscape for us poor freelancers living on gruel, stale bread and Red Bull.

Sky News... Students, camera from Toys R Us, and a LiveU.

I post the above picture not to take the piss... Really, i don't. Sky News had about 350 of these things around the country on election night. The reason being is that the kit with which we do our jobs as purveyors of news worthy pictures is certainly changing at a rapid pace. Whether broadcasters have the will, or indeed, the money to keep up is debateable, depending on who you talk to. One thing is for sure, as freelancers we need to keep our eyes open, watch our backs and change with the times that face us. For my part, the ability to broadcast live, via satellite or streaming media, is the main goal for now...

Also during this election, i noted that the top politicians only appeared at heavily structured, set up PR run events which in no way... at all costs... made contact with the great unwashed general public. Basically, only appearing with party minions and pre-vetted friendly people on private property made for a dull, soulless and uninspiring election. Speeches were made to nodding donkeys of the party faithful. Cringeworthy handshakes with long ago prepared, mid level functionaries of corporate Britain in a sanitised, safe environment... And we tagged along, hoovering up what we were given.

Most noted however, was the tawdry heckling and shouting down of journalists asking pertinent questions to politicians by rooms full of party apparatchiks, followers and boot boys. Don't like the question..? Shout it down. It was shameful... by all parties. Try meeting the public and stop preaching to the already converted.

As a TV news cameraman though, i was bored after the first week. PR sanitisation and control won this election press coverage, no matter the snazzy kit and speed of light news gathering. In my humble opinion we as the media, in most cases, failed to challenge it robustly, which may be to our cost in the future.

In days of yore, filming elections gave me the hope of capturing splattering eggs on Ministers foreheads, soap boxes and reasoned argument in public spaces, angry mums challenging the powerful on a street corner, and Deputy Prime Ministers punching large, florrid faced men in the face.

Those were the days... But after this election, all i have is Mims and Flick. Come back proper electioneering... All is forgiven.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.