The moments before a live on a BGAN connection drag endlessly. The countdown to the reporter stretches to hours, as the data rate inevitably on my screen drops,climbs and wavers.
Running off batteries, i’m keeping a constant eye on how much power we have left – laptop, the camera, the lights, the bgan are all depleting at an alarming rate. The reporter is at this point focused and steely eyed down the lens. I check that we have enough bandwidth and that the reporters IFB (the line which allows the reporter to hear the studio) is still connencted. The second we go live, I know I’ve earnt your money for the day; against the odds, you’ve got the news on air.
Live reporting in the news industry is the biggest bugbear of news shooters. Cameramen want to be “doing their job” at key points in the story and capturing strong pictures, whilst editors want their reporters live around breaking news. Reporting in hostile environments tend to provide some relief from this treadmill, revealing a reporter’s location can often comprimise a crew’s security by exposing the team to the risk of getting snatched or targeted. Our time in Yemen was no different, with a week long hiatus from lives and all social media activity. But as we prepared to leave Aden we decided to break our radio silence, and go live from somewhere that few people get to see and even fewer can claim a live dateline from.
Our hotel’s roof seemed like a good option for our live. It would allow us to set up out kit in advance without the usual concerns about theft or security, and allowed us to test our connection in advance. We would be broadcasting around sunset, and hoped to catch the maghreb evening prayer as an atmospheric sound background and more importantly we would be able to shoot long into the cranes around the Aden port basin. This was significant firstly because the location would be difficult to pinpoint for anyone keen to kidnap or attack us in a hurry; it would be obvious we were reporting from somewhere in the Ma’ala district, but difficult to identify from where exactly we were shooting. The hotel’s roof also had a lift shaft to hide us behind, and we would not be visible to others in the neighbourhood enjoying the evening breeze or trying to spot a rare foreign news crew reporting live on the network’s main Middle East program! Sadly Aden suffers from an almost constant black out, so we wouldn’t have the luxury of mains power for our broadcast.