The guest at our Coventry conversations discussion on 18th May was Rob Hopkin. Rob was the main director for the recent General Election broadcast from the BBC.
Used to the demands, as this was his fifth Election night show, he showed that he clearly excels under pressure.
He gave us a fascinating insight into what happens behind the scenes in order to present us with coverage that “dwarfs any of the normal BBC News offerings”.
Receiving information from over a “100 Outside Broadcast trucks” including our own John Mair who was in Northern Ireland covering the results, he has only 16 screens visible to him at any one time in the gallery and therefore has to make instantaneous decisions about what we as the viewers see.
He then imparted that there had already been two vague scripts prepared prior to the broadcast with him only instructing those involved at “six minutes to ten” which one should be followed. Unable to prepare any earlier, as this would have been unlawful and seen as bias, the reporters had to adapt their styles for the ‘hung parliament’ option on the spot.
Upon being asked a question about the set design we learned that it had been created by Coventry University Alumni – Johnny Spencer. We learned that the set for the BBC Election show takes three and a half years to complete, with the production team deciding how they are going to show all elections. Two and a half years before the show, there is a competition for the design of the set and with just eighteen months to go, the set design is finalised and commissioned.
It was an illuminating conversation that shed some light on the complexities behind one of the major television events covered by the BBC and broadcast worldwide.