Roger Bowns, Guernsey office manager
THIS isn’t the first time that I’ve been asked to write about Channel Television’s Guernsey Office. I’ve also had to talk about us to various Island organisations on a number of occasions and always I’ve tried to find something new to tell.
But it wasn’t until I was looking through a previous feature that I wrote to mark our 21st anniversary, that I realised what a stable office we have in Guernsey! During the past four years there have been very few changes in personnel.
True we lost Lindsey Brooke, who is now doing extremely well for Anglia Television, and sound recordist Claire Wickins decided to ‘come upstairs’ and join the Newsroom where she is now a reporter and regular Channel Report presenter. This means that we needed a new soundman, and into Claire’s shoes stepped young Guernseyman Mark Ogier, who had already gathered a year’s experience in the job in Jersey.
Otherwise we haven’t changed in the last four years, which just lets you know what a happy bunch we are!
Channel Television has always had a Guernsey Office. Ever since we first went on the air there has been a Guernsey crew with a reporting staff and a sales division. Only the Guernsey premises have moved from time to time.
In fact the first Guernsey office was little more than a shop front in Smith Street, but it provided an important presence when television was still in its infancy in the Island.
When I joined Channel in February 1966 we had two rooms in the Albion House over the Kosy Korner bar. Apart from myself, there’s only one survivor from those days and that is, of course Rosemary Henry, who had joined the Company the previous year. You may not know that Rosemary started with Channel as a reporter, but her heart was always in the technical side and it wasn’t long before she moved to the Operations Department, first as a sound recordist and then as a camera woman.
In those Albion House days, Sales were the lucky ones with their own office. The rest of us shared a large room which at least had the advantage of a super view over St Peter Port Harbour.
We kept the fourth corner of that room free so that we could use it as a mini-studio.
By the mid-Sixties it was already becoming increasingly clear that we needed a micro-wave link between the Jersey and Guernsey studios. Given this Guernsey would be able to inject live material straight into the local programmes. To do this we had to have new offices and after a long search, remembering all the time that we had to have a direct line of vision with Jersey, we eventually moved to Les Arcades in the Market in 1967. It was to be a milestone in the company’s history.
Apart from separate offices, Guernsey now had its own soundproofed studio, with ancillary offices from which sound could be controlled and equipment maintained. But even more important, the direct link with Jersey was established through a dish on the roof looking directly across to Jersey.
This latest piece of local technology was to prove invaluable at an early stage. During the EEC negotiations between the Islands and the Home Office, Channel Television featured a number of late night discussion programmes, and for the first time a live Guernsey audience was able to take part.
No sooner had we established the link than colour came along. We were barely into that before the even greater innovation of ENG, or Electronic News Gathering, was introduced using video cameras.
If colour television changed us all overnight, then the Video Age was even more breathtaking. When Channel Television became the first independent television company to go over entirely to ENG it proved another important milestone for the Guernsey office. Now we could actually send our news pictures across to Jersey for editing by using the micro-wave link. No longer were we totally dependent on aircraft and the uncertainties of our local weather.
Thanks to ENG and the micro-link Guernsey-shot tape is now sent to Jersey where it is recorded for editing and subsequent transmission. Even more important, it can be injected live from Guernsey, as was the case with last year’s powerboat championship week.
Just as an example of how quick ENG can operate can be judged from a Dart Herald, which you may remember had to make a forced landing at the airport some years ago. It touched down shortly before six o’clock. We managed to get the video tape back to the Guernsey studio at two minutes to six and as Channel Report went out at six o’clock it was the lead story with pictures.
Since our 21st anniversary we have established a new studio in Guernsey. In October 1983 we moved to the Piette complex at St George’s Place and it has proved most suitable in every respect.
We now have a purpose-built studio with full studio control facilities and daily, it seems, we are equipping up to a standard normally associated with companies very much bigger than Channel. Even the reporters, who are the most un-technical people in the world, now use computers, and this has provided another major break-through in linking two studios with more than 25 miles of water between them.
Paper has virtually become a thing of the past, and the clacker-clack of typewriters has gone too. In its place has come the electronic keyboard with software which sends Guernsey stories straight into the general line-up of possible news stories for the next bulletin. The News Editor now scans a monitor rather than scraps of paper, but it means that the formation of the news has become a much more united effort in which Guernsey can see, as well as Jersey, just how the bulletin is shaping up.
In addition, it’s the same software that converts an entire news bulletin and projects it on to a tele-prompt system so that Guernsey, too, can present local programmes such as Channel Report, which no doubt you have noticed we do on frequent occasions.
When you come to see us in Guernsey, you’ll be greeted by Faye Le Cras who is one of the most cheerful people you’re ever likely to meet. Faye is Guernsey through and through, so she knows a lot of you before you even open the front door. And working in the next room to Faye, you’ll find another Guernsey person in Richard Bird, who handles all the sales business which passes through the Guernsey office.
The strength of Guernsey blood will also be found in the Technical Services Department, formerly the Operation Department, where Rosemary Henry of L’Ancresse fame, works with Mark Ogier.
You have come up into the newsroom to find the foreigners! We’ll excuse Claire Wickins, whose maiden name is Sarre, but Peter Rouse wasn’t born in Guernsey. It just seems that he’s always been around. And as for myself, well, I came to Guernsey from Bournemouth but I’m afraid Guernsey is going to have to put up with me in the Island for the rest of my days!
We enjoy life in the Guernsey Office. When the chips are down and a deadline has to be met, then we’re all in there together and I don’t know many happier outfits than the seven of us here in Guernsey.
Above all, the great thing about working in a small office like Guernsey is the community which we are privileged to be a part. We meet all sorts of people, from the rich and the famous to the ordinary man in the street who so often has a far better story to tell.
Now Channel looks forward to the next quarter of a century when you can rest assured that the Guernsey Office will be there to cover the events of the Bailiwick, and to help when a dog has been lost or someone simply wants a sympathetic ear. For big or small, exclusive or not, we have become very good listeners, and after 25 years it’s good that we, too, have a story of our own to tell.