Monday, 14 May 2012

A Week In The Life Of A TV Executive

Week really starts on Sunday when I received the call that convicted Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi might be about to die. He’s been “about to die” ever since he was released on compassionate grounds in 2009. The Lockerbie bombing was the largest single terrorist act over British soil so it casts a large shadow over Scottish current affairs. The Sunday phone call hijacks most of my Monday morning as I make sure our Lockerbie current affairs output is up to date. Although talking to the team one thing is certain we are NOT preparing an obituary! We don't do obits for convicted mass murderers - I feel I could pre-write the letters of complaint now if we did. We have to get a film ready that will cover all the issues relating to Lockerbie and Megrahi when he dies. A film that will mark a convicted terrorist’s death that isn't an obit’. It's not easy (did I mention some people think he’s innocent?)

Meeting Head of Scheduling at BBC Scotland (wish I had her job). At school I used to play chess at the National Championships and scheduling is the closest I get to exercise that strategic part of my brain. I've got a big investigation into Rangers football club and we've got to decide where to place it in the schedules. I've been in Scotland five years and I'm only just getting to grips with the place Rangers and Celtic play in the Scottish psyche. It’s nothing like any Premiership clubs in England, it's more like Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain representing specific histories, politics, and unfortunately in the case of Scotland often religions. Being English I tread carefully when covering these Scottish icons. I still find it strange to describe myself as "English" something I'd never done before coming up to Scotland. Five years ago I was "black British", a “Londoner”, a “Brixtonian” but not “English”, Scotland quickly knocked that view out of me. Nothing like being in a minority to make you aware of your identity.

TV history is being made with cameras being allowed to film the sentencing in an Edinburgh Court of David Gilroy for murdering his lover Suzanne Pilley. I've got a special into her murder going out that night; only interview with the family, exclusive access to police investigation etc etc. Network news is going big on it as well. It definitely feels as if Scotland is ahead of the curve when it comes to filming in court. But we were ahead with the smoking ban and minimum pricing of alcohol – wow, can’t believe I’m saying “we”!

Massive spring in my step: overnights have come in and last night's doc gets a 24% audience share – great for a current affairs programme. Have a meeting with a London indie. It seems everyone has woken up to the fact that Scotland has an independence referendum looming. It's like being the plain Jane who's had a make-over and now everyone wants to ask you out for a date.

After the indie pitch I catch a flight to London for a meeting with Doreen Lawrence about taking part in a TV event. I often feel I inhabit two worlds. Exec'ing Panoramas and Scottish commissions I firmly park my race at the front door. But I'm also acutely aware I'm one of the only non-white execs working in current affairs so I have an added responsibility (being a role model and all that stuff). To be honest I think being black has really helped me in Scotland: I’ve been having conversations about independence since I was a teenager - Martinique model (stick with the devil you know) vs. Jamaican model (independence or die). And as for feeling a minority in a larger UK I totally get that.

Still in London. Chasing network commissions. The Panorama Editor Tom Giles is always looking to feed the ravenous beast that is Panorama so meeting goes well. Nothing green lit, but nothing ever is at the first pitch. As I leave White City someone asks if I'm moving to Channel 4, it seems I was spotted "lurking around Horseferry Rd". The reality is a lot more mundane as I was just popping in to see Daniel Pearl new Editor of Dispatches to discuss some academic work I'm doing for Bournemouth University. They really need to get a back entrance at Channel 4, for once I have sympathy for Murdoch visiting Downing Street. The sympathy doesn't last too long though as the following Monday the Leveson Inquiry interview both James and Rupert and the media world erupts again - but that's the start of another week.

(Edited Version First Appeared In Royal Television Society's "Television" Magazine, May Edition)

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