Let’s not forget our Guernsey compatriots


Taking a trip over to Guernsey

CHANNEL Television have always had a Guernsey office. Ever since the word go on that historic day in September, 1962, there has been a Guernsey crew with a reporting staff and sales division.

That was company policy right at the outset and it has never altered. Only the Guernsey premises have been moved from time to time.

In fact Channel Television’s first Guernsey office was little more than a shop front in Smith Street. But it provided a vital presence back in days when television itself was still in its infancy in the Islands.

It wasn’t too long before the first move was made, this time to a small office suite in Albion House over a coffee shop and the Kosy Korner bar.

A group of people sit on a corner sofa
All smiles (well almost) from Channel’s Guernsey team who are, left to right, Richard Bird (Sales/Advertising), Claire Sarre (Engineer), Rosemary Henry (Cameraperson), Peter Rouse (Journalist), Faye Le Cras (Receptionist), Roger Bowns (Journalist?Office Manager) and Lindsey Brooke (Journalist)

It was here that I joined up with Channel in February, 1966, and the one survivor from those almost pioneering days is Rosemary Henry who had joined the Company the previous year.

Sales were the lucky ones in those days. They had their own office while the rest of us worked together in a large room with three windows looking out over the harbour.

The receptionist sat just inside the entrance door; myself and reporter colleague John Neale sat in one corner; while cameraman John Ogier and Rosemary shared another corner, which left just one corner for the studio!

And that wasn’t a very good idea because we all had to leave the room and sit in the Sales Office every time the “studio” was needed. And if that wasn’t enough, the building and camera used to shake whenever a bus went by.

But they were days that we remember with some pride. Improvisation was often the order of the day and reporters used to record their scripts onto ordinary little cassette tape recorders back in the quietness of their own bedrooms.

The most important acquisition then was a zoom lens for the camera but even in the mid-sixties it was becoming vitally important to have a micro-wave link between Guernsey and Jersey studios so that Guernsey could inject live material straight into the local programmes.

But new offices were clearly necessary and after searching St Peter Port remembering that a direct line of vision with Jersey would be essential, Channel eventually moved to Les Arcades in the Market in 1967 and it proved the beginning of 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 also established and it meant that even the latest news could be transmitted instantly.

Such an innovation was to prove invaluable during the EEC negotiations between the Islands and the Home Office.

It was a fascinating and sometimes nail-biting era of Channel Islands history and Channel was able to add new dimensions by live discussion programmes with audiences participating both in Jersey and in Guernsey.

But the world of television is strange even to those who live in it and probably completely incomprehensible to those who simply watch it.

Even as the link brought its great advantages there were changes in the offing … first colour and then in no time at all along came ENG, or electronic news gathering, using video.

Colour film changed Channel overnight and the Company was quick to see that Guernsey, too, shared the same basic facilities as those in Jersey. But the video age was even more breathtaking as viewers sat back amazed at the brilliance of the new colour system.

Channel Television became the first independent television company to go over entirely to ENG and it proved another vital step for Guernsey. Now there would be no more total reliance on aeroplanes to fly film to Jersey for processing.

Aurigny, God bless them, had done and still are doing a wonderful job, but not even this little airline can beat the elements of nature on some days.

Thanks to ENG and thanks to the micro-link it is possible to send the colour pictures straight “down the line” to Jersey where they are recorded on another tape for editing and subsequent transmission. And that means any vital piece of news can be reported in pictures almost instantly.

Both crews and reporters enjoy working with ENG mainly because it is a more flexible system and the silence of the cameras helps in no small measure to soothe the nerves of some interviewees!

Very shortly, the Guernsey Office will be on the move again when it picks up link, cameras and gear and goes down to St George’s Place where a new purpose-built studio is being constructed.

Apart from being an even more fully professional television centre, the studio will feature a two-camera operation which will allow picture selection while a Guernsey reporter is interviewing a Guernsey subject in the Guernsey studio … an important feature from any director’s point of view.

As a result of this move, the Guernsey Office will become known as the Television Centre because it will be a scaled-down unit with many of the features normally associated with the larger studios throughout the world.

The personnel won’t be changing. Miss Faye Le Cras will continue to welcome us all with a friendly smile from the receptionist’s chair and Richard Bird handles sales.

In the newsroom, I will enjoy the valuable assistance of Miss Lindsay Brooke and Pete Rouse, two reporters who learnt their trade with Channel and have become trusted and respected professionals … both essential requisites for any journalist working in any community.


Forever on the move


Behind the camera, as ever, is Miss Rosemary Henry, who, you may not know, actually started out in Channel Television as a reporter. But Rosemary has always been far more technically minded than any reporter and it wasn’t long before she moved over to the Operations Department, first as a sound recordist and then onto cameras.

Her sound recordist is Miss Claire Sarre, although if this feature is read after September the third, she’ll be Mrs Claire Wickins.

In a small office such as the Guernsey unit, you get to know each other pretty well. The nature of the job with its share of tense moments and deadlines to meet have been known to fray a few ends but I can tell you that there aren’t many happier outfits than the seven of us in Guernsey.

Together, we have a few tales we could tell! For instance, there is absolutely no way that Lindsay will ever cover another feature about bees after getting badly stung many times in her hair.

And I remember going on a small fishing boat out to the Elwood Mead the day they tried in vain to refloat her from Les Grunes. On one occasion both the bow of the boat and myself disappeared under a huge wave while Rosemary was filming and a few minutes later I was talking to the camera when suddenly neither camera nor Rosemary were to be seen. They were sliding at a great rate of knots towards me with Rosemary on her bottom, legs and arms in air protecting the camera. I caught her as she went by!

Then there was another reporter who was using a neck microphone for a roadside to-camera piece. Suddenly he took off at great speed after a lorry shouting for help. The mike cable had caught up in the passing lorry’s wheels threatening to throttle one reporter at any second.

And there was the time when Rosemary was being held over a ledge during the filming of a cliff rescue. All was going well until the reporter, who was holding her, let go to light his cigarette!

Female team of reporter, camera operator and sound operator
Lindsey Brooke records a link for ‘Channel Report’ with the help of Claire Sarre (sound) and Rosemary Henry (camera)

The great thing about working in television, even in a small office such as Guernsey, is that you do come extremely close to the people you meet.

You quickly learn that everyone needs a little helping hand when the cameras are about to turn in their direction and that no two people react the same in a television interview.

And that’s why in Guernsey we always try to put people thoroughly at ease. There are some, like actor Oliver Reed, who will simply fall out of his chair in the middle of an interview, but in the main people do respond much better than they think during a television interview.

The whole thing is all about people and we’ve met a lot, both famous and not so famous in the past 21 years. Now we look forward to meeting many more in the next 21 years including, of course, those friends who have been part of our island life from the beginning.


The Channel Archive

1 thought on “Let’s not forget our Guernsey compatriots

  1. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Roger in 1995 following the transmitting of the 50th anniversary of Sark’s Liberation from occupation. It was headed Biberach Baby. My mother, who worked at Stocks Hotel was deported in February 1943 and I was born in September. This was mentioned to one of the ITV personal by my wife. He thought it would make a change to the normal story of the German (Werner Lang) who marriage Sark girl after the war. I believe it was Rosemary who did the filming.

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