[Start of Recording]
I: Interview with Danny Livingstone. Interviewer - John Frame. What was your background before you got in to television, Danny?
R: A little bit unusual. Went to school. Left school in fifth year with Physics, Maths, you know, a scientific interest. Wanted to go to university and found a really good university in Essex where Essex had a fabulous technical infrastructure of three telephone exchanges for a phone for each students' residence, they had a broadcast radio studio which was designed to BBC standards with PPMs with Janet Fields with all the bits you would expect to find in an actual broadcast studio. They had a theatre with proper lighting rigs, big Rank dimmer panel and two tape machines with splice-ball edits. So, as well as the entertainment system where the students sort of ran the PA system, one of my friends built a 200w amplifier, which in those days was unprecedented and we used to do student parties in the flat with our 200w amplifier PA system attached to whatever we wanted because that was the thing about being an electronics student - you modified stuff!
But to be fair, before I went there I spent a year out working in libraries so I was a librarian as well! Ordering books on shelves and mostly reading books behind the shelves and, you know, exploring the vastness of the Mitchell Library so kind of twin passions for literature and electronics at the same time was a bit bonkers. That wasn't a good idea because I actually failed my course at university and, funny enough, failed graduates were what were perceived to be the head of Sound Department at STV's idea of the right kind of person to put in the team because graduates, at a functional level, graduates always wanted to move on. They always want to manage and had too big an idea of themselves in some ways! So, I had probably joined the ranks of the humbled by not doing too well at university so when I was looking for a job in a related field, STV offered this opportunity and you've probably realised this did what was needed here or sink or swim would happen and you learned how to work for people, with people and don't get ideas above your station to start with! Yes, so that was the way in and was a long circuitous path and I was very fortunate that I applied for a job at the BBC and had two interviews for the BBC, both of which were great practice for my STV interview, but it took the BBC so long to come back and decide that I was going to be employed that, in the meantime, STV wanted a couple of recruits, advertised on television, unusually, had two thousand applicants for these jobs of which my friend, Stuart, and I were the successful applicants. We didn't realise the scale of what we had achieved in terms of that sort of amount of people chasing a job in this amazing industry. But when I got into STV, I kind of quickly realised the people in it were the best and brightest that had been other places like the BBC and had come over to STV because they were actually better remunerated. There was more, in those days I think the sort of rule of thumb was a job at STV seemed to pay half as much again as the BBC. That was the kind of trade-off so everybody that was good anywhere else in the industry very quickly ended up coming into ITV, BBC, well ITV, ITN, STV and, you know, the independent broadcasters. So, yeah, it was amazing! You suddenly thought, Wow! The people in here are...I'm kind of lucky to be part of this - it's great!
I: Did their abilities help to hone your desire to get better as well?
R: Well, yeah, because you had to, at a very functional level, I mean I started as a trainee sound technician, audio technician and my job was to push booms around the floor so that they were in the right place for the Operator to get the boom into the shot in the right place. Or to clip on microphones or to rig cables or to coil cables up so it was a kind of really quite a functional job. It wasn't a highly craft-skilled artist's job where you had to have a think about exactly how you were going to cable things or where that mic clipped on. It was doing things as the junior member of a team that the other members of the team then relied on you to do, mostly so they could go to the pub and come in five minutes before on air and it would all work! But that was, there was a pressure of sorts to get it right but to me it was a simple job that needed done simply but if you read too much into it then that would then make you ask questions which then people would perceive you as a bit of a pain, you know! So, get on with the job, do the job and luckily there was a wonderful inspiration in our department called Harry Cooper and Harry was quite good at keeping people grounded, you know. If you could do a programme about Harry himself, those sayings, you know. Harry had had a career in the shipyards and that sort of foreman mentality of bringing up a young apprentice was, I think, probably formative for anybody in the Sound Department. I think Harry's influence of just, "Do the job, son!" You know, "You don't need to think about this, son, it's no' rocket science!" That sort of thing. He was really really brilliant at just reminding you that you weren't there to create new works of art, you were there to coil the cables up and put them in the store and keep it tidy which not a lot of people did! So that sort of thing took me from being an aspiring graduate designer where I have got friends who got through that graduate process who have done some amazing things like, you know, Ronald Yates designed the first HD giant pixel screens that currently hang in Celtic Park - that kind of thing. I've got mates that did a lot better than me in the design but I think I had a lot more fun. And actually in the ten, fifteen years to start with I had a lot more money, which was amazing because that was as a non-graduate, functional cable coiler which then progressed to, through experience, into other things and I seemed to be earning more money than anybody else that I knew which was quite amazing too! All that accelerated over a few years and it was quite a place to be.
I: What was the working environment in terms of staff attitudes and so on? What was it like when you started off at first and has it progressed?
R: I think the progression that I've seen was mainly, putting it in the Trade Union viewpoint, we had a four-man crew to operate what we now do as a one-man job in studios. We had a Sound Mixer. We had an assistant Sound Mixer. We had a senior tape editor and, you know, player and a four-person in any given studio crew and that's, you know, not realistic but it was what we did at the time. You found yourself in situations where there wasn't actually much work to do. The Junior, me, might get it all done, the rest of the guys would turn up at five minutes to the programme, push up the faders and it would all be fine. No, it was a kind of magic world to live in and that attitude of having a Union level of manning was kind of core to how ITV was at the time and, later on in my career when I started doing film work, film news, for instance, was done with a three-man crew - lighting, sound and camera operator - unless it exceeded two minutes and the two minute rule then took it into what was called a feature and then the feature required eight people in the crew. And there's a kind of pivotal moment when (I might tell you the whole story later!) but at some stage I remember a specific job where one Director turned up to shoot what was deemed a feature by the Unions but in fact all he wanted was some GVs of the Dundee skyline. We went to the top of Law hill and we had eight cars, we had a Spark (Electrician), we had a stage crew and the stage crew had a caption stand, we plonked the caption stand down, it was foggy, we couldn't shoot anything else, we all shot the caption stand and went home! And that kind of thing didn't, you know, it was funny but that was a kind of pivotal moment and that would never happen in the days where we would put a resource like that into something where the Union would say "Well, you need to man it to that level."
I: I suppose it's quite frustrating in some sense that you had to...
R: But it created opportunities, you know, without that Union edict, if you like, that we needed people, I would never have got a job because ultimately the efficiency that we see now doesn't create opportunities for people. That kind of concerns me a little bit that there's a whole younger generation that we can't take on as apprentices because the economy of what we do doesn't support it. It's where it's difficult enough to argue for a full-time craft person to do a job when, in fact, it can be done with someone with a phone if you like. So it's very difficult to then say well, how can we educate a new generation of people to do what I did in the way that I was lucky enough to get because the Union had that structure. So, we can look back at it and laugh but I actually have to say without that, I would not be here! And many of us wouldn't be here and many of us wouldn't have had the opportunities we had because STV was able to do that because the money was coming in, they were selling and I always tip my hat to the sales department of STV and to every organisation, you don't sell your time - no dates. And we were able to sell, well in an uncontested market we were able to bring huge amounts of money into the door selling airtime so the management of it was given the means to be inefficient about how we did things and to be able to agree to stuff that we couldn't now because we were selling in a very competitive market, we don't have the money coming in the door, our sales team are probably ten times as efficient as the guys that used to be because the nature of the market is changing. They do a great job. They bring in a fabulous income but the income could only support a very limited resource and, at the moment, that's me. In the future it worries me how will we actually bring people in to the industry because the slack isn't there. We had that slack that let people in and train them and gave them great experience.
I: You are talking about the future here, what do you actually see from the, not from the moment you came in to STV, but, say, ten years ago to now and it's really the kind of way it's swung?
R: Yes, it's interesting. There's a set of, you can almost go through a narrative of technical benchmarks of how things have changed and I have always kind of enjoyed being part of a new technology and we did, I remember very well, as a trainee, well, not trainee, as a slightly more established studio sound technician, taking part in a project where one of my student camera colleagues, John MacDonald, John decided to shoot a really kind of worthwhile video project which was effectively a small film about a girl having an abortion and because it wasn't an official STV project, we could not have any rules to make it so we took a video camera to location! Now, in those days, we weren't allowed to take a video camera to location because that was a film job and the demarcation within the Union said ? location film and there was an on-going debate about why you couldn't shoot on video outdoors for years! I was in a muddle thinking, why can't you?! Because you can! And we did! So we went out with a video camera and a very big Umatic-sized recorder - God Bless John Alderbert if he's listening, who made it happen! Tom McGarry who did some great lighting on it with four red heads, and we ran about town doing what you would think of now as a pretty hit and run drama but in those days it was absolutely frowned on by the Union establishment who thought this is not good because this is establishing practices that undermine how we've managed to regulate it over the years so we went out and got great experience with this video camera on location because, you know, in those days you had a rack's engineer to control the picture. Well, in that context we had a rack's engineer but you had an engineering background through the O.B. truck which regulated a video camera output and different path down film where you had a director of photography, a lighting camera man who was in charge of the image until it got to telecine, you know, so the different parts didn't quite meet at that point and didn't overlap. So that was a bit of a benchmark for me to be able to, first of all, to get out and be part of that little project which then I was lucky enough to take through dubbing and stuff like that. It gave me some fantastic experience!
I2: In what year was that?
R: That must have been about '80, I would put it down as about '82, '83 maybe. And I can't remember the actual name of the project. I will have to ask John that. But the crew was quite remarkable. John MacDonald produced/directed it, Tom McGarry who was, it was his first job as lighting director. It was my first job as a sound recordist and then I later had an interview with the film department and became a film sound recordist on the back of that project so that was a progression of sorts. I also got to edit it on the, not edit it, I got to replace all the sound using our fabulous Maglink 24-track live X system which was another technology first. That was interesting for us. You think about the amount of capital resource that we had for a spare time project was unbelievable, you know, because the cost of that multi-track suite alone was millions in its day. I mean, I remember people from the BBC coming over and saying, "You've got a two-inch 24-track live X - that's amazing!" "Yeah, well, we just have!" Because that was that year's cap. ex. budget. I mean the film suite again was, you know, “Top of the Range” kit and all that. It was huge capital investment money. It may or may not have been the best way to do it but it was a huge investment nonetheless and, in those days, STV had the money to buy the best of technology and they had a commitment to demonstrate every year to OffCom or ITC I suppose it was in those days. They had to commit that they were determined to deliver a better project than everybody else and I remember, 1986 for me was the most pivotal technical year for me because at that time I worked for ITV Sport doing the World Cup in Mexico and ITV had the rights for the World Cup and their attitude to it was whatever we do, whatever it costs, whatever it takes, it's going to be better than the BBC! So, in every place, they threw money at it! I have to say I have never earned so much since because I was in a Union agreement which effectively meant that any time, the third schedule as it was known, historical Union agreement, meant that after five o' clock I was on overtime and the hours on that project were just immense and the overtime was unbelievable! But what it meant was that ITV then said, they had the determination to say, right, what does it take to get us one better than everybody else?
Funny enough, I think a lot of that attitude has moved on to Sky Sports where there's a really aggressive competitive attitude, which I quite admire, where I see colleagues that used to work for ITV Sports many many years ago have taken that through their careers and with Sky, I think, for what they do, I really admire their commitment and dedication but I kind of see that's how ITV used to be. The change in balance happened when the advertising market started to split up when the resource wasn't there. Channel Four didn't have a big impact. Channel Five, you could start to see it. All the satellite channels definitely eroded the marketplace and with every passing year the income was less so ITV was less able to compete but in '86 there was very, very little impact on the idea that we are going to spend and ensure that we are the best and I think that also goes back to STV's older days. To impress the ITC, we're going to spend money and we're going to get the best kit because that's our commitment to the ITC, to hold this license which was maybe a license to print money of sorts then but certainly it was better. So that was, to me, a pivotal time of, year, I don't think it ever got any better than '86. 1990 we were still, ITV still had the World Cup rights in 1990 but by that time the competing broadcasters had set in and the money wasn't flowing just as well and the attitude, although we had a competitive attitude (you can't take that away from people - they are like that, they all want to do a really good job) but I think you can look at historically, you could look at that time as a really interesting moment in the evolution of ITV.
I: Here's a question - you don't need to answer if you don't want to - are you ashamed to tell people in the big wide world that you work for STV?
R: Oh no! Quite the opposite. I'm a definite supporter of this place. And there's been good times and bad times and, like all of us, we all moan about, you know, the times that we personally think it's been terrible but I'm still here! This is coming up to forty years that I've been in this job and I still don't want to leave!
I2: How did you see the difference to working in a studio and working on the film?
R: Huge. But that's kind of going back to the timeline of career stuff again. For me, there was a different, within STV there was a schism. There were the people that did video, that is, studio and outside broadcast and there was that film lot and the film lot, for some reason, always seemed to get all the good jobs! They always seemed to be going here, there and everywhere and, for some reason, they were all better off and the film cameramen all had yachts and big, fast cars and stuff like that and I thought, well, actually, that looks alright! These guys, they must be doing something right! In fact, they did all have yachts and big, fast cars! At least quite a few of them did! Although I did meet one or two individuals that managed to, I've never met people that earned as much and kept as little in terms of divorce settlements and stuff like that. But their personal lives were interesting so the consequences of addressing personal lives well, people were, sometimes they should have been rolling in it but weren't! But that's not STV's issue, that's somebody else's history. But no, the division within STV between the film guys, they seemed to get all the glam jobs where the O.B. side of it was very much work-a-day. You had Parkhead and Ibrox and Hampden. They were your glory days. And if you did really well, you got a nice day out at Ayr races, which was fabulous! You got a real break in the countryside and to do anything much more than that like the curling, for instance, it was a bit of a departure and the golf events, they were a bit of a holiday! But these things were all great! They were great for the team but these guys were hauling cables across muddy fields, were standing out in the rain doing football matches, we were basically putting a shift in of sorts well, although some guys' shifts consisted of, you know, rig it, you know, and hang about for a while, there was an awful lot of idle practice, people doing nothing but that's not the point. The guys in film seem to just jet off somewhere and do stuff and then get back and it sounded, from my point of view, it sounded like a really attractive place to be.
The other thing was, within the scope of my own department, there was no progression for me because we had very well established and very well paid supervisory staff who weren't going anywhere. Short of murder, they weren't going to die soon although that was always a possibility! But no, there was no scope. The sound supervisory jobs were inhabited in general by really talented guys that weren't going anywhere. So, from my point of view, thinking, well, the progression from being a kind of tech-support, you know, cable-coiler, mic-clipper, boom-pusher, up to being more of a kind of senior grade. First of all, there was an automatic progression within STV that the Unions had negotiated. So, when I came in as a trainee, I had a five-year progression where every year my grade was increased to first year, second year, third year, fourth year, fifth year and then, after fifth year, you became substantive. And that progression to substantive was really good because every year you got a pay increase and that allowed me to get mortgages and grow families and all sorts of really, really good stuff to be able to say, "I'm actually going to be better off next year". That was fabulous! But beyond the substantive grade there was nowhere to go. So, the opportunities in the film department were that a sound recordist was seen as a sort of, almost sound supervisor because you had the responsibility of sound with no one to consult so you were out, on your own, you were kind of self-sustained, if you like, and you had to make decisions. So you were given a supervisory status and supervisory grade!
But what wasn't obvious until I got the job was this thing called the third schedule where the third schedule was based on how studios worked in the thirties where studios worked nine till five and if you went past five o' clock it was overtime whereas everywhere else in the business, if we did a late show with an audience - like “Thingamajig” - you would come in at two o' clock in the afternoon, you would spend the afternoon rigging and getting ready and doing rehearsals. You would work till eleven o' clock at night and then go home. And that was your shift. You didn't get paid overtime for that. And the third schedule, had I come in at eleven o' clock, I would have been on the clock since nine. I would then be paid overtime from five o' clock till eleven so what happened was, there was a system which the Unions had had managed to stick to which meant that whenever my job interfaced with the real world, like if you want to interview someone and they are not available until after five, that's overtime. If there's a story that happened after five which ITN wanted to cover - that's overtime. And there was a special arrangement with ITN where ITN paid a minimum guaranteed amount of money for any given job so if a job was an ITN, we used to fight to do it! It wasn't about, "No, I'm not working overtime!" it was about, "He's had two ITN jobs!" you know, "And I've had none this month!" The ITN jobs were, in particular, really really favourable so that was the bit which became apparent. When I started working in the film department the overtime was amazing and the guys in the film department who had had this system had worked on football matches every Saturday since the fifties and had extra money for that and that's why the yachts and stuff came from! It was twenty years of filming football matches and paid in double time for it!
I: Oh God, yeah!
I2: How were families, were they both families on their own in terms of relationships?
R: Oh yeah. The video side and film side were kind of separate occupiers of the same building and separate families and they didn't cross over and you found in the canteen that there was a film table and there was a studio camera table, there was a sound table and there was a PAs' table, there was a table for each clique of sorts. When you worked in studio, you were part of a much bigger team. Same as outside broadcast where you kind of recognise your technical colleagues across departments where the people you work with were there all the time so you didn't go outdoors much whereas in film, you would all meet in the canteen, go out and do your jobs and come back in and the people you worked with were generally your own crew and probably the common factor was, first of all, the Sparks because the lighting department was shared across outdoors and indoors so you would kind of tend to work with the same people you'd worked with in studio programmes. And in studios, funny enough, the Sparks were always kind of like just a bit smarter than us because they did both worlds. They had a kind of insight into both sides of the job because they straddled the two operational areas. We would moan about film guys doing something and the Sparks would kind of, they would have been on that job, you know, so they kind of knew more about it. And they knew more about how the kind of ambience of the film family worked but they were members of neither. The Sparks stood apart from the O.B. studio end and film end and the electricians were in the middle and actually got the best of both worlds, funny enough. God Bless them! But they were hugely valuable in crossing the bridge for me because I'd worked with these guys in studio and when I moved to film, then there were still guys that I had worked with that I was alongside.
I2: What was the first big film job that you did?
R: I remember well my first ever film news job. It was the closure of Cardowan Colliery which was an interesting job. It was at the start of the end of the mines. That was the period when mines were being closed in Scotland and there was a colliery at Cardowan which was pretty historic. One of the last deep-mine collieries. And the closure was announced and we went out and I was kind of like a trainee at the time and I was given this, John McGuire, God Bless him again, who was my trainer for the day, said "Well, you are not going to learn this watching me, son, just take this stuff and just go with it." So I thought, oh well! And he was perfectly right and this is how I train people now. I'm taking that leaf out of John's book. "Don't watch me - do it!" You know, learn by do. So I was given this - headphones, single system stripe sound amplifier and a microphone and it wasn't a terribly demanding job in the sense that all we wanted to do was get a little vox pop, a little bit of sound from what was happening but, to me, it's like this whole new world! Things that are actually happening! You don't have a Director that says, "Stop! Can we do that again?!" You are suddenly interfacing with a very real real world where the events that you are part of, you have no control over and at that particular day at Cardowan, it wasn't, I had seen much angrier miners' days but the miners' conflicts were quite a good example of something where you could stand next to it and they would then see you as part of the problem and that was a really interesting education on job one of, wait a minute, these people are, there are two angry sets of people here! There's two opposing, one very very angry set of people looking for an object for their anger and the Management's not here so those media people - let's have a shout at them because they are bourgeois or whatever! You know, there was a construct in my head that said that they didn't like us despite the fact that I actually probably interviewed Mike McGarry a few times later and really liked the guy! He was a fabulous intellectual gentleman but you only discovered that later when you got to meet people on a one to one basis. And that takes you into another element of that film job where you got to meet people as humans. Sorry.
I3: No, that's excellent. Thanks, that's much better.
R: Aye, I noticed that, I didn't even realise I was doing it! I'm not used to being this side of the camera! I'm used to moaning about that.
I3: I want to talk to you about memories afterwards.
R: Oh right! My favourite was the conflict between Ronnie Fraser and Mick McGarry - that was great.
I: Oh aye!
R: Somebody asked about memories because Ronnie passed away recently and somebody asked me about my favourite memory of Ronnie which was Ronnie saying he wasn't moving and Mike McGarry saying he was and the two of them were such similar characters in terms of their immovability and there was a picture ended up on the front page of the Herald with Ronnie, the cameraman, nose to nose with Mick! That's just said a lot about Ronnie. Said a lot about Mick. Absolute gentlemen in their own way, you know.
I: Oh yes.
R: So, real people!
R: One of the things that differentiates us between working in a big studio and the environment of a big team is that everything you do needs to be controlled. So, when you bring artists in, you sit an artist down and the control of the situation has to be complete so you've got a floor manager, a unit manager or someone who makes sure that the reality is controlled. There's no noises, no interruptions, it all happens for you. The film department interfaces with the real world and real people and real situations so you got into peoples' houses which is very very different from meeting in a studio context because in studio, you know, you would sit in studio, say, doing the news and, in those days, we did interviews in the afternoon. Paul McCartney would come in, you know, Charlton Heston came in once, you know, people would come in! And it was amazing who would turn up but it's very, very different when you go out in a film crew to peoples' houses. And I always thought that one of the favourite jobs that I look back on is when we did an interview with, a programme about Manny Shinwell who was a hundred years old and Manny had been alive at the time of the Boer War so your connection with somebody who, periods of history that were so distant now they were amazing! Manny was in George Square when there were tanks in Glasgow and there were snipers firing from the roof and the Red Flag was raised and this is astonishing history that we can look back now and think, I've met that guy! I talked to him. I had a conversation with him and Manny said, "I'm coming up to one hundred and do you know what I like best? Getting up and reading the papers and engaging with the world!" Fabulous!
But in the course of that programme, we met people and probably the favourite for me was interviewing Harold Wilson in his house. Now, as a small child, I saw Harold Wilson and Kennedy on the telly! He was a media figure which, to me, meant someone from a different planet! Yeah, Harold, that's him in the news. He was a very popular media figure but he's not somebody that you got to touch. When we went to Harold's house and Harold was starting to get a bit, he was showing early signs of dementia at the time. His memory was going and he was a bit of, it wasn't a great interview but the experience of seeing someone who you thought was, in your mind, a media person, sitting in front of you, having a conversation with you in a house which needed hoovered, where there were toast crumbs on the table, human signs of actually just being a person like you, was the bit that the film department gave you that the bigger team of studio production have an imposed control on situations, didn't allow people to be absolutely one hundred percent human. So when I sat and had dinner with, you know, Harold, a cup of tea and, you know, you are actually in someone's life in a way that you couldn't possibly be as an ordinary person so you kind of realise it's a bit privileged. Mind you, 1986, Pelé made me a cup of tea! That's another story. That's now my top story! Aye, Pelé, he made me a cup of tea once in a hotel in Mexico! I mean, where do you get a name drop like that?!
I: I know! Tremendous! So, you reckon that news-gathering is, as you say, intimate? The colossal ironmongery of the multi camera gets in the way?
R: Well, it's not just multi camera, in a single camera drama shoot there's a colossal infrastructure that has to be managed as well so if you are shooting a drama or a commercial or something which is upscale in terms of usually the cost of the talent and the screen determine it. If you've got, let's say, Sean Connery was going to cost a million pounds a day to shoot the infrastructure behind has got to be colossal! It's got to be controlled and its got to exclude the real world so that you can get on with doing what you need to do to make what you're making. In news and the kind of people-feature, if you like, which the film department used to be assigned to in STV, you would go into a situation and take it as it is and work with it as it is but where things become an economic investment, where a programme has got to be made, the control has got to be imposed to make the situation. Not upset the economic process. Let's not have too much noises off. Let's not have interruptions. So there's a little bit of a difference between what's now effectively fly on the wall work where you turn up and you embed yourself in someone's life, you follow them around to the point that they don't notice you and this is really easy because the smaller the camera get, the better the fly on the wall approach becomes because you are in people's lives without being noticed and now you can do that on a phone - people don't even know that you are there! So, you know, as the hardware decreases, the access to people's personality becomes much much easier, much better and much more real and the film department was always on the real side of that. But then again, we managed to make it big sometimes, you know, by bringing a feature crew in where two people would have done the job but in fact we then had a Director, a PA, stage crew, driver, you know, all sitting about wondering where to fit into people's houses sometimes! But we could upscale it a wee bit but it was still, by comparison, intimate.
I: Aye. So is STV doing it right?
R: Phew. Well, yeah, nobody's doing it right. I think that what we've done, I have to say, having done several decades here, I think the last ten years has been an astonishing achievement and hats off to Rob who did an amazing job. If you came in here and had backed Rob at fifty pence a share and your shares are now nearly four pounds. As a measure of success that's amazing in itself but as a measure of how the brand has turned round and the values kind of respected, we still have a connection with the Scottish public which, I think, is really what STV's always been about. It's always tried to be the channel that people are more connected to. And I think Rob's advantage to me was that he realised the value in that connection which wasn't monetary because in the period before that we were very embedded in the kind of fiscal realities of how to build a business by strategy, leverage, takeover, borrowing, acquisition, all that stuff which built businesses of huge scale but without necessarily understanding what the emotional or interactive customer relationship was and I think what Rob's done is taken it back to a customer relationship where, again, you've got a kind of STV viewer that we service. People want to know what's on in the news. We go out and try and find it for them. And if you do that right, what we do now is at a very local level. The business is localised so that we've now even got a studio in Ayr. Ayr was off the map for a while so we are trying to make an input in that area to gather stuff which gives that area presence on screen which then gives them a relationship with the brand which then gives them an affinity to STV and that's always happened in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen where the affinity to Grampian as a lot of people will still call it. It's huge! Unbelievable loyalty to the channel up there and the same basic philosophy applies in Aberdeen as it does in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Maybe just try to extend it a little bit more now but that interaction with viewers at a local point has been better than ever but only because the technology's allowing us to do it and the manning levels are much much less than they used to be and the economies of scale mean that we are doing more with a lot less but we are still doing it.
I2: How did you see the change in the 1990s, the early nineties, as the company got smaller? You remained in it!
R: Yeah, well it was interesting! There were a few stormy waters at STV negotiated over the years and, to me, I've been very fortunate in that I've always perceived the core of STV as News because I've had that experience from my first day at the film department. The first day in the film department was a really engaging and interesting news story on the miners' strike. Probably some of the best stuff that I've done over the years has been a news story that has happened that day. So, it always occurred to me that in the middle of the STV brand or whatever it is in people's minds, having the news on every day is really, really important. If you don't have the news on every day in two days' time people will start to forget you and in two weeks' time they will have found another source of news and two months' time, you are off the radar and in two years' time, you won't exist! So, the daily news is absolutely vital and although some of my colleagues find the creative challenge of news-gathering isn't big and I've had some colleagues over the years who are, in fact one particular colleague who is an Emmy award winner and is a photographer now, hated news with a passion because he could not be creative on it, you know - I hope you are listening, Mitchell! But I quite understand that people don't sometimes like the fact that you have to be very, very cut-throat in news in how you produce things. You can't make the picture good. You get what you get sometimes and because the demands are fairly hefty in terms of go out, get something, get it back, get it on for six o' clock or, as it is now, get it on for as soon as possible! You can't hang about doing stuff and we can't afford the resources that we used to have of lighting, even for features where we used to have a lighting electrician with a van load of lights which was great and you could take time and you could make stuff look really good! That doesn't interface well with the demands of news. I've always been quite happy to go with news and to work with it as a thing that needs done, in its own way, well, but because of being embedded in news as a thing that I've always liked doing, I never fully let go of it. So, in a lot of elements of my career, I have been a lighting cameraman on documentaries, on lifestyle programmes, on dramas; these are great jobs! They are really good, creative jobs to do! I've done a lot of good art-based stuff. I've done music videos. I've done music videos on 16 mm which bands are, you know, like have been worldwide now and I can say, "I did their first video!" It was great! It was NB, you know we shot it in 16 mm and it was fabulous and you look back at it and it was really good! But within all those jobs, I've always kept a connection with news so I think, latterly, I think I was an O.B. Manager on a part-time basis so I would be an O.B. Manager for a couple of weeks and do football matches and, I mean, at the moment I am still doing O.B. management to a degree because I am planning for Election broadcasts but I would always go back to do news so whatever changed in STV over the years, it always struck me that close to the heart of it and, to a degree, close to the heart of STV news and it will be the last thing to go when the lights go out because without the daily news STV, as a brand, will become just another production company or just another producer programmes. It wouldn't be what it was if it wasn't there. Every day was something fresh and that's why people come back to it so I'm kind of proud to be part of that! It sounds bad but yeah, I like being part of that daily engagement. People on their daily lives are interested in the same thing I'm interested in. Sometimes that involves standing outside a Court all day for one shot of one person leaving who's that news story. Sometimes it's a bit more exciting than that but, you know, it's crucial that it's delivered every day!
I2: So how many video journalists are there?
R: Well, there's a movement of how we do news as well which is kind of part of how the progress of television in general is which is kind of moving on from the progress I saw. I saw the movement from film being a separate, an absolutely separate discipline and separate organisation within an organisation to being integrated. We had a bit of a Union dispute ongoing for many years about who should man the video cameras on news and the news people said, "No, you want news people to do that. You don't want video people to do that because they take forever about everything!" It's no' going to work, they need directed and stuff whereas an instinctive news guy would go and cover a story without being told so this ongoing Union dispute, it flared up in Union meetings where there was, you know, "Whose job is this?" "It's my job, I do video cameras." So if we are going to change from film to video, it was going to be the video camera guy's job and the film camera guys, they could be redundant because they could do dramas and documentaries and stuff like that and Tom Weir and all those other film programmes but whatever was on video, we were video camera people and we were doing it. And the film guys kind of, to a certain extent, probably kind of laughed about that a wee bit, as did the news journalists because the news journalists were used to working with self-starters where it's not good to be a self starter as part of a bigger team. So if you are a team operator like a camera crew member, if your initiative tells you to do something that's going to lead to trouble because you are going to be out there on a wing doing something. Initiative is a problem for studio camera crews and studio team members because if you decide to do something on a wing and you haven't told everybody else, it's going to end in tears for everybody. So, you've got to be disciplined and contained and you have to accept the orders in your ear and go with it as a team member. But, on the film side, there is nobody to tell you what to do so you have to make it up yourself so you see the thing that is happening in front of you and my example on my very first day, it was a miners' strike, it was an incident, a demonstration of two conflicting people and I was with a guy called Gordon Coule who was one of the most seasoned camera people in Britain! You know, Gordon used to do all this amazing stuff nationwide - fabulous guy! Gordon could see, in his mind's eye, what the story was and what was the essential thing to get without anybody ever telling him! So that differentiated between who gathers the narrative is still an issue, even today, because the owner of the narrative is the person who carries the story to the viewer.
Now, what we've done now, is we now have journalists who gather that narrative. Who assemble that narrative. Who present the narrative. And it is all in their own head. Whereas we used to have to go and gather the narrative from somebody you told to, sort of roughly what you want and a good cameraman was somebody who you didn't have to tell much to and a bad cameraman, not a bad cameraman, a different, the wrong cameraman was someone who had to be directed in every shot. So, if you were that narrative assembler, you had then to instruct that person, then you had to take the rushes in and tell someone else how to put it together and all this to be done by six o' clock. So, what we do now is that the people who are given the story to do, construct a narrative in their head, work out the elements they need to do it, go and find them, gather them themselves, ingest it themselves, construct it themselves and make it ready for transmission without discussing it with anybody so the time constraints are subverted, if you like, because you don't have to tell anybody what to do anymore because you are doing it all yourself. Now, the downside is that you are doing it all yourself but the upside is that, within your head, the story that you want to tell goes from a piece of paper right to the screen without touching the sides and that is a bit of a gift in some ways because it allows better storytelling. The downside of it is that it is not really good for people who are just camera operators, that are non-narrative gatherers so that then points to the next generation again of, if you make the narrative and we have in STV, the narrative assembly of having journalist-edit in the news room. The natural extension of that is that you make the equipment lighter so now the VJ kit, which is a small VX 2000 or a lightweight camera then becomes a phone. And the phone, obviously there is constraints and limitations on what phones can do but in my entire career at STV I always thought the best thing that we do is we focus on what can be done instead of what can't be. So, if you say what you can do on a phone, of course you can't zoom it in and you can't have a long lens and you can't have a telephoto shot from half a mile away but you can gather some amazing stuff with it and if you put it in a storytelling form, it, again, gets out to the viewer without touching the side. So, by giving that narrative construction role to the journalist of storyteller, you give them something easier to gather it with, it all comes in and out in a remarkably sort of pain-free way where you are not carrying a big tripod! You are carrying a wee tripod with a phone on it so the future, to a certain extent, has gone from where I saw it originally of the difference between a directed team-operating camera person and an independent guy who could see what the story was and what the essential elements were to get that story told. It's just kind of now gone on to being anybody that's a good storyteller has now got the tools to be able to go out there and gather it and that's pretty good for the viewer! Maybe not for me as an old tech, old tech sort of (what's the word for it?) camera operator.
I: Multi-camera operator. That's actually quite good because each event that happens out there in the big, wide world is unique and it is better if it is a unique person who has it all the way through to the audience.
R: Yeah, I think the assignment - I mean this is not how I do, my role is now floating around on a bigger technical-support level and I kind of see myself now more as technical-support than storyteller. But what we do in our news-gathering is that we assign people a story. They tell the story and the story that they tell is all the way from gathering it, assembling it and present the finished one-minute, two-minute whatever it is package to go out so, yeah, it doesn't touch the sides. There is a difference where you start expanding to features where there's an expediential growth of the amount of work that's required in a piece beyond two minutes and the original two-minute rule, I always think, actually has still got some sense to it because if you are shooting something which is more than two minutes and you are doing it all yourself, the work does not double to make it four minutes. The work quadruples! There's an inverse square thing. If you want a four-minute piece, it's going to take four days as opposed to, you know, like one day. And I think that people, possibly the commissioning system sometimes doesn't quite appreciate that but a rule of thumb, it's probably evolved that most news pieces are two minutes. Still some two minutes because that's the viewer-attention span, you know, in a news context. If Elvis wasn't dead and he was prepared to give us an interview, he might get two and a half minutes but that's the nature of news because something else would be there in the programme on the same day. So, I've probably gone right round on a tangent and back again! But possibly that's never really quite touched that painful bit of the transition when we took the Beta cams out. We sort of started that.
I: Right, we'll maybe do a pick-up then?
I2: That's no problem because it's a reminiscence.
R: Yeah but the problem is when you reminisce, you tend to go right round in a crescent and back again!
I: We're here listening to you is more important than you doing this so that more people can actually have contact.
R: Yeah but that was kind of back to something I said when the camera was running. The experience I had as a sort of junior sound technician to be able to go out and film a video product when it wasn't allowed. This was something we did in our part-time. We had a wee project, we thought let's go out and shoot a video. Do Drama. It's great because I was out on location with a video camera shooting location stuff and watching it. Not operating the camera because there was a sound man at the time but it would be part of the process of how do you light it? How do you make the shots consistent? What issues need to be addressed to make a video camera work rather than a film camera?
I2: How long was that before the Beta camera came out?
R: Well, Beta Cam, if I had to put a date on Beta Cam, it must be about '84/'85, something like that, Beta cam, yes. Thereabouts. Couldn't be absolutely sure about it but probably about '84 because for me, my progression was that I joined in '78. I was doing that particular video project that I was talking about probably happened about '82. Beta cam arrived a couple of years after that but there was still the Union element of new technology and the barrier to introducing new technology and the negotiation of who was going to do the jobs slowed it up because Grampian had video-gathering before we did by a long way! Grampian were, in fact, the first people in the UK to have video news-gathering and it was known, ENG was called Expensive News from Grampian by ITN because you had to pay the guys overtime to do it!
I2: STV was the first one to have a complete Beta Cam system.
R: Yes, they were the first one, I appreciate that. Absolutely. Because we had an advantage. Grampian had been very early adopters in video and, in fact, one of my colleagues, Malcolm Campbell, Malcolm had worked for Grampian on video when they used the RC Hawkeye System and Hawkeye was a bit of a kind of dog's breakfast! A huge big box of tape recorder on the back of quite a big camera with a kind of average lens and a rotten viewfinder. But it worked! The Hawkeye System sort of worked of sorts. Mostly people used U-matic combination. We'd kind of been lucky enough, our disputes about how to operate ENG gave us the advantage that we sat back while all the kind of early evolution of ENG was happening. So we actually missed the U-matic generation and if you remember the old way of news-gathering was Ykigami and U-matic and although I did a bit of that, again in 1986 in Mexico we had to subcontract NTSC equipment because we were working within that infrastructure. That meant that we had to go back to a U-matic recorder and to me it was like, trebling the weight of the stuff you carried so you had to run about in the heat with this heavy pack on. But STV actually had the working advantage of because we fiddled about forever disputing whose job it was to operate it, we were lucky enough to have the very first integrated Beta Cam Camcorders in operation anywhere. And that actually happened in Edinburgh. On our Edinburgh news-gathering operation.
R: No, no, it was a distinct working advantage because you got better gear. It was better than what was going elsewhere. I think there was a BVP3 camera that we got was a pretty good tube camera but it was a tube camera and a tube camera requires a bit of daily input which the guys in the film department weren't really used to because they were used to brushing hairs out the gate and they were very, the film guys were interesting because they were all very critical of optics. Quite rightly! Because in fact I hadn't really realised until I worked on film that film was much much better! Much much sharper and much more forgiving as a medium to work in than video, and I didn't realise it until years later when I started shooting film myself, just how easy it was to be good and creative and get brilliant images on film compared to video where you would have white tearing and puddling and, you know, over-exposure and lack of contrast and stuff like that so, in actual fact, you had to light much more heavily on video than you did on film because you could get a really interesting image on film with just a wee bit of fill-in, you know, it looked great! You could fix it all later in telecine or have it graded, you know, so the grading element in film made it really good. But for us when we took on a BVP3 camera and we gave it to a guy who had used an Arrowflex with a really good sized lens, and was used to a certain quality of pictures, and suddenly the picture was out of registration. "Why are these lines, sort of, why have they got, like, chroma strips either side of that black line?" "Well the camera's not in registration, it's been bumped and the tubes are out of line." "What's that?" You know! So, one of the jobs that I had was because I had had some experience on the ground of shooting with video, I was assigned to, one at a time, although I worked in general with one camera-operator partner for most of my career, I was assigned to the first week of anybody shooting Beta Cam. I would go out with them because some of the guys were like, "What's registration?" You know? And "How do you white-balance?" And "Why is this white-balance not going to work?" "The pictures look a bit yellow!" But the problem is, we didn't have colour viewfinders then so the guys were not able to make good colour judgements on the basis of what they were seeing because they were used to seeing a colour shot in the viewfinder on film and, suddenly, they were having to evaluate a black and white picture where they weren't quite sure it was balanced right. They weren't quite sure, because they were used to having the film laboratory grading system, you could shift so much later that you couldn't with video cameras so video cameras put an awful lot of demands on people who were used to a much easier medium that looked great and they had, literally, some of the guys had done it since, you know, the fifties! Guys that had been thirty years working in film and more suddenly having to work out why it was difficult to shoot in video when it looked easy! And it really came down to changing the lighting. The lighting became a lot more contrast so you could get a really heavily kind of contrasting lighting look on film and it would look terrific! On video you couldn't afford that sat-down black film noir look without it sinking into a kind of, you know, difficult mire of contrast and stuff that video couldn't handle so it was an interesting change to make and part of my facilitation of it was at least to be there when the guy was saying, "What does that button do?" "Why do you need to do that?" Setting up a registration stamp.
I2: The Early Version of Beta Cam is about the second ? wasn't it? It did actually look fairly similar to the Advanced Model
I2: It's the first portable video camera.
R: Well, the original kind of, it depends what you mean by portable video cameras. We had, there was a kind of cheap and cheerful news-gathering single tube version of the Beta Cam which was designed for a slightly more robust experience but we never used that because our engineers, probably quite rightly, said that it wasn't quite good enough. You know, the tubes were a bit noisy but there were people out in the news-gathering field that used these single-tube cameras and they were pretty kind of good. And, I think, again going back to that wee project that we did with John MacDonald, I think that was a Hitachi single-tube camera. But it didn't really matter what it was because the idea of doing something with, you went out with battery-operated kit and you set up and you shot a Drama without any O.B. support and that was radical in itself so that didn't matter. Our BVP3s were a good choice of camera and I think when you saw them as, when you plugged them into an actual video monitor and looked at them as a video source, they were pretty bloody good! The problem was, we weren't allowed to use them as live cameras. You know about Lockerbie as well - that was an interesting story.
I: No, I wasn't here at the time.
R: Petrol can.
I: Petrol can?
R: Stopped it. It was empty!
R: Mid point. Nae petrol! We got it up on the hill.
R: Aye. But that was the technology that we had at the time but that was, but that's a good story in a way because that is a bit of a testament to how hard everybody worked to get that out and how any member of that team was responsible for something they didn't expect because, you know, they should have been down at Ayr races or whatever it was! And they pulled all the stops out and, ultimately, it failed. At least for a while but if failed until one of the Sparks went into somebody's bungalow with a 13amp plug to run the scart. Don't put the heating on! And it worked! We got it up and running. And we did, do you remember big Colin, the rigger?
I: Oh yes, aye.
R: Me and Colin, I was sound and Malcolm was camera and Colin had a portable microwave and we followed Maggie Thatcher around Lockerbie with it! At least to a degree, we didn't go to people's doors obviously but we got a live out of it which was, again, that was crossing Union boundaries but everybody did it because it wasn't the time to give two hoots about that kind of stuff but we done it!
I: You're right.
R: Where was I? Yes, there was a problem! The BVP3 was a great camera and I was kind of lucky and, again, I go back to my wonderful 1986 experience. ITV Sport wanted to do live broadcast from every part of Mexico two ways for the same programme. And what the guys would routinely do was plug in a BMC into the BVP3, taking a picture out of it, putting it into a microwave link, installing communications and doing a two-way down the line. And the bit that was missing there was an outside broadcasting unit and we had a lot of experience of doing these hit and run stand up lives with a camera and a bit of wire and a link over the Atlantic or whatever! It was really, for me it was really exciting because I hadn't done this sort of stuff before for a big support. When we came back home and we wanted to do this at STV, there was a problem because someone's job was at stake because, ultimately, there was a scenario of an outside broadcast unit of some sort should have been deployed to take that live signal from the back of the camera, through a microwave link system back to base and a communication structure in place to do it. The problem was that it hadn't been resolved. The introduction of new technology had happened for news-gathering in as much as we would go out and shoot something on tape, as if it was film, and instead of sending the tape back to the lab, you bring it in and cut it. That was seen, in that silo of filmic operations, it was done in the film way. The problem was getting a live signal out of the camera and back to base was effectively prevented because there was no sense of needing to collaborate with the management. In order to make this technology effectively made people redundant so we had this issue where I had certainly done all this work and I was dead keen to do more because it's really nice doing live stuff. It's what television is all about to this day! And we couldn't get past square one and effectively we started it with the collaboration of the Shop Steward, Andy Grey, who was, in fact, head of Links, which was the department that put microwave dishes up on cherry pickers on roofs and pointed them through line aside back to base. And Andy kind of worked out that he needed to get involved in this anyway because it was going to happen one way or another and we eventually got a situation where we could plug our news-gathering video camera into a link and have it back without an outside broadcast unit. And that was a real landmark achievement in STV and it sort of changed the face of news-gathering for us and, I think, the first time we did it was Maggie Thatcher at a Tory Conference in Perth where we did live feeds back to base of the speeches and we did a live two-way with a reporter into the news that night and that was seen as pretty monumental!
R: Round about the same era was kind of the Lockerbie experience which, probably, is a story worth telling because it defined a little bit of how things worked or didn't work at the time. We had our new video news-gathering technology established a couple of years and again, it was Malcolm who had done a lot of work with, we got a call to go to Lockerbie because somebody had set a petrol station on fire and like, you know, all news events, there's a whole programme about Lockerbie and with people's reminiscences about how the evening went but that my experience was we were going out to a news job. We didn't know where it was but we needed to work out how to film something and get it back. So, although getting there was difficult, and at one stage there was, Malcolm took a shortcut across what seemed like a field because the roads were closed! We had to navigate our way in there! We got there and we got pictures and I remember my first interview post-Lockerbie was a guy on the M74 with a house burning behind him, standing outside his lorry, shaking, talking about having rushed into a blazing house to see if he could help anybody and there was no one in the house but the budgie and we did the interview with the budgie! So that's a Lockerbie story. It can put, sometimes, the silliness of what we do! "I ran into that house and I rescued a budgie!" It was like, you've just been to the biggest news story Scotland's ever had and the first interview is about a budgie rescue! You know, if that doesn't put news in some kind of context...
I: It's called human interest.
R: It's human interest and it's still, it's a great story! I don't know if that actually made it on air but, one way or another, we had an eye witness and our eye witness statements needed to get out so what we ended up doing was escaping down the M74, going to Borders in Carlisle and they were ready for us to come in and play a tape back up the line to Glasgow. But, in the meantime, there was a mobilisation happening of the rest of the outside broadcast guys who were, again, a different department but the response was unbelievable. They pulled out all the stops and they got an outside broadcast unit on the road, into Lockerbie somehow that night and it was probably there, it arrived, certainly it was there in the morning, it arrived in the middle of the night. And they had the infrastructure to take a microwave link out of Lockerbie up to the hill because you couldn't do what we do with satellites now! You had to have a series of hops of line-of-Sight connections. So, the idea was, there was a big hill outside Lockerbie and mid point we could go there. I could see Glasgow signal from the the mid point up to Glasgow. And the mid point device, the mid point van, if you like, was a sort of Mercedes Sprinter-type Bedford vehicle, had a generator, unfortunately no petrol! Because the guys would have been expected to do a routine job the next day and they would have, as part of that routine job, fettled up with petrol and nobody had checked it. So, they got all that expense, extravagance, effort - whatever it took to get there - people dropped everything to do that job and the one thing that went wrong was no petrol in the mid point generator so we couldn't get the first pictures out from the scene the way we would have had we had that. And, I think, it wasn't a big thing that we missed but it's kind of worth knowing how much people were prepared to bend the rules to make it work. And we didn't quite get the result that we wanted (a bit like us with the budgie, you know!) Things don't always work out the way you think in the world but had we had today's satellite technology, we would have sent a truck. The truck would have pointed at the sky. It would have sent the stuff back up and off you go! No mid points! Nothing in between but, in those days, the mid point was pretty critical and there were other stories of other satellite, microwave links that I could go into about how the mid points were more critical than you think. But it was a really important part of how we worked was that line-aside technology again, moving on from needing that to satellite trucks was a big leap because we had a period of news where we went live from news by going into a microwave link which was chased around Glasgow by a cherry picker crane, which was 160 foot crane with a bucket on top and a microwave dish which would follow us to wherever the news was and try and park somewhere local and put the crane up so that they could see the Theatre Royal tower and when you think about the challenge of that, that's pretty challenging! To want to do that was pretty good!
R: And this was a run on again from coming back from Mexico and having a camera that generated video and having all the obstacles to using that live from the people who were in the outside broadcast unit who saw it. Eventually, these guys who jobs would have been on the ? , funny enough, started doing the job because it was natural that they did. So, it kind of moved everybody forward in the end but the ability to want to come out the camera and go live and get back for instant news were always on the agenda. And our scenario was, it was a simple change actually, we had this very cumbersome microwave cherry picker arrangement and with a simple change of vehicle when we went to satellite trucks that enormously changed how accessible places were and we still deal with these problems! To this day, there's still problems with microwave, not microwave, satellite uplinks are still a problem because you have to be careful of aircraft, there's places you can't operate them, you can't park them that is north-facing side of a building - there's a lot of constraints that we somehow get around on a daily basis!
We've now moved on again because there's another technology that's replacing sat. trucks very slowly where we use mobile phone sim cards which are bonded together to take a signal out and there is a number of competing mobiles - LiveView, the Jerrow, WMTs - there's about six manufacturers that now do these things that bond together your sim cards to produce 4 megabit data stream which takes a really decent quality live picture over the internet with very low latency. It's great. And you can do it with your phone now! I can take my I-phone out, I can press the jerrow app and go live to the studio from my phone anywhere and that was successfully used, the first probably example of that was the Glasgow bin lorry accident where Sky News, Jim Matthews, went live immediately from his phone, interviewing people with his hands-free kit. And that's kind of taken it all the way from our first experience in 1986 all the way to somebody on the phone with no infrastructure. The thing that's not changed is that people want what's happening now on the telly or in their living room or on their phone or on their Facebook or wherever it is they consume, this instant. We haven't actually changed that at all. That's still part of news-gathering but instant connection is what we strive for. It's just that we used to need a huge infrastructure to do it and the idea of a convoy of STV vehicles including a Mercedes Sprinter van, a Volvo Estate and a cherry picker dashing out to some news story somewhere - you could see why it didn't always work but, then again, sometimes it really did. Lockerbie, sadly, it didn't but then the next day we were up and running and we did, again, the first absolutely live, roaming camera thing I've ever done was one of our riggers carrying a microwave dish, miniature dish that pointed at the scanner and we kind of got shots of Maggie Thatcher walking about live into ITN which is the first time I can ever remember doing an absolute input into what was a rolling news story because ITV had pulled programme and ITN was doing live all day from Lockerbie and we were part of that process through the O.B. truck into ITN. So yes, it did, it happened for ITV in a foreign country, it happened for STV in Lockerbie but our growth of live news contribution from then has certainly been close to the heart of what we do and still is.
I: That's been superb!
I2: Shall I ask the other questions?
I: This is kind of sound bytes.
R: Alright. OK.
[Off mic chat between the group]
I: Danny, what was the most memorable moment from your time at STV?
R: Oh, that's a tough question! Alright. OK. I'll do the pun, the one that I tell everybody which is Pelé made me a cup of tea! And had I not worked at STV, that would never have happened! But we were filming the World Cup in Mexico and we turned up at Pelé's hotel to interview him and our journalist was stuck in a traffic jam and traffic jams in Mexico could last four or five hours or days! And we sat about with Pelé just talking about, you know, the Game, you know, life in general, their families, all that stuff! And Pelé's like, sort of, "Guys, do you want a cup of tea, then?!" And when the tea came up, Pelé made the tea! So he dumped a teabag in for me! How nice was that?! Now, what other jobs could you do where that would happen, you know?! So that's probably, I always still rate that as, that's one of my best name-drop stories! Pelé made me a cup of tea! How good's that?!
I: That's superb! What do you think was the most important contribution that STV made to Scotland and why?
R: Phew! Blimey! That's a difficult one to answer off the top of the head but I think it's quite a deep question really because I think what it's provided is an alternative viewpoint because the monopoly of broadcast from BBC was, sort of, it didn't really suit the Scottish character effectively. I don't think quite a, not that I'm a political animal in that sense - I can't afford to be - but I think the establishment of an alternative voice was probably the most important thing that STV, as an organisation, did. The BBC was there and seen to be the voice of Britain, if you like, whether it was officially Government. Obviously it's, I'm not talking about the problems that the BBC have with the charter and independence and all that, but one way or another, they seem to be slightly official. There's always the thing about the BBC being guys in dinner suits reading the news on the radio where, like it or not, they are stuck with a little bit of that perception whereas STV has always kind of gone for the one o' clock guy, cheap and cheerful, we're your pal, you know, we're not, we're never going to be the state broadcaster. So, that alternative tone of voice, if you like, or voices is probably, I think, what STV to me has been part of doing and what I think has always been the fun bit of doing - how are we going to be not the BBC? You know? How are we going to be our own thing and sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's amazing! And people react to it and that's probably when you look at what you have done, now the feedback is more immediate and more apparent than it ever was because stuff goes out there and people tweet about it, they Facebook it, they share it and they let you know what they think and sometimes, you think, actually, given we do something with a resource which is next to nothing, and we get a reaction which is better than a hugely resourced thing - OK! An alternative voice is important and I have to go back and say the BBC is really important. I think it's really important to have a properly funded broadcaster doing things that don't make a profit. That's vital but we kind of like, well, we try to be there as well!
I: OK. And what's your fondest or funniest memory of STV?
R: Blimey! That's tough! I don't know! Well, maybe, there's so many of them! How do you pin one down?!
R: Well, that's a fond memory maybe but the funny memory, I remember Hercules the bear on the New Year programme. First-footing with a small deposit! And Jack McLaughlin's amazing line at the time "I thought only the critics did that to this show!" So that was our blue ? elephant moment on STV. That was really funny. But that's only one of so many! I can't remember! The mind goes a blank because there's so many of them, you know! It's just a great place to be. I think your fond memories come from being, in the job that we do, you get a front seat of history. You know, things happen which are mainstream, historic events and you have a kind of maybe slightly funnier take on it because you were there. You know? Like you might not like the Prime Minister's shoes but who knows that because you're there in the same room as him and that's not on the telly! What's funny that happens just off camera we get to see stuff and we get to kind of live with it and be part of it and ? doesn't interest it or doesn't see it so you get a different perspective on events and that's been a very, there's not a memory that you could say is 'the one' that makes me look back and say, "Oh! I'm glad I did that!" You know, for instance, Manny Shinwell's a great memory because just in statistical terms, you talk to someone who's a hundred years old, you talk to someone that was there in, at that time, you know, in 1886.
R: No, it was when he was born.
I2: Yes, you could do it as one. So a fond memory is Shinwell.
R: Aye, let me roll back on that. Yeah, that's a good fond memory and it's probably an old one to go back to. A fond memory, just unusual. A very fond memory would be Manny Shinwell because he was a hundred years old and you get to share memories and be in the same room as someone who was there at events which are distant history to most people now and it was a good example of the kind of thing that we see all the time. We did a fabulous series on the First World War where we interviewed veterans of the First World War. It was called Going for a Soldier and I didn't do much of it, I did one or two interviews and some of the guys did much more of it but the underlying thing there was touching people in history who are not going to be around, a bit like oral history projects, you gather people. You get testimony from people who were there and, if you look back, they are not there now and some of the stuff that was gathered from these people is incredible! Eyewitness observations and I've met so many eyewitnesses to think that it's amazing. So that is a really good example! I met a hundred year old guy, he did an amazing four days with us. Manny talked for four days! You don't get that in a half hour programme! You can't condense easily four days but you get the experience of being in the same room as somebody talking uninterrupted for four days. For an old guy it's maybe eight two-hour sessions, that sort of thing. That's an awful lot, you know, which the viewer can't get but you, by osmosis, take in somebody's wider experience and you have a much more interesting view of that person that can possibly be shown in a half hour or a one hour programme. So, the expanded bit that you get from interviewing a real person is that you are sharing a lot more of somebody else's life and it's not the detail that's important. Sometimes it's the, it's the kind of wider picture of peoples' personalities that comes over when you sit in the same room as them. You have the privilege to actually sit down with people and get something out of them which you might have choices when you come back and you've got one and a half minutes to put it out, you know, and you sometimes think, I wish we could put more of that out and now, we've got the ability to online, say, "That was brilliant, let's put it out online! Let's just not cut it!" And we did a great interview the other day. We were doing reminiscences about Lisbon and we took Archie McPherson. Archie did a brilliant forty minutes worth of his memories of Lisbon. Now, we are going to edit that down to two and a half/three minutes for news. What we'll do is we'll put that, we'll top and tail and put it out online for people that want it so there is a good outlet now that people can maybe share a bit more of that longer form. Rambling conversation which tells you more about people than a clip, a slickly edited clip, ever can. So, I've been lucky that I've had that pretty much all my working life and now ordinary people, consumers, if you want it, you can get that stuff now and that's maybe one of the changes that the viewers are seeing that they are getting access to the stuff that we've been lucky enough to do. You know, we get next to people!
I: OK. Great. That was lovely.
[End of Recording]