David Boulton on the introduction of Electronic News Gathering

 Another thing that you did when you were head of current affairs was the introduction of the new technology in Liverpool, ENG [Electronic News Gathering], and the new technology high-tech newsroom.

Yes, that was a nightmare because if there was anybody in Granada who knew less about computers than I did, I’d have been interested to have found them! I was very, very slow in picking up all that kind of technology and my mandate from David Plowright was ‘I want this to be the first, completely computerised newsroom in Europe’ or the World or whatever and having worked out what the words ‘computerised newsroom’ might mean I had the job of trying to make this happen. I went to 2 or 3 major IT companies and started talks with them about how we might do this and I found that I might just as well have been having conversations in Bulgarian or Sanskrit! I hadn’t the faintest idea really what they were talking about and I thought the only way in which I can really sort this out with myself is insisting we talk my language and so I said to him, “I want them to do this and that and I want it to do this and that and it doesn’t matter about that but this is the outcome that I want” and then we began to get somewhere. Rather than them telling me what they could do I told them what I needed. It helped a great deal that I found out that ITN [Independent Television News] were also moving to a completely computerised newsroom. I mean the idea was to make it completely paperless and, of course, that never happened but they were moving to completely computerise their newsroom and we found that we were both talking to the same company so that made it very much easier for me working with ITN to move towards the transformation of the newsroom to old-fashioned paper to IT that we made such a big fuss about when we opened Liverpool. In fact, I mean of course all sorts of things went wrong and we found ourselves reverting to paper quite quickly and the move into computerisation was gradual but nevertheless we made a big song and dance about it. And it was very good politics as far as Granada and Liverpool were concerned because it meant that Granada had a presence in Liverpool. Liverpool had always moaned about being left out and being second best to Manchester so it did quite a lot to improve Granada’s standing there. Then we went on to produce another electronic news studio in Lancaster, which lasted till as long as we got the franchise renewed and then it quietly disappeared!


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