Jim Grant describes some difficult moments as a transmission controller

It was a job where you sort of sadly hoped that something bad would happen that day, because that’s… because of the structure, big events were few and far between. I remember I started out as a trainee assistant, as we said. And when I finished my training, I was an assistant, and then I got promoted to transmission controller when one of the existing TCs left. And not long afterwards, my first big deal was Charles and Diana’s wedding, which I suppose looking back, you regard it as rather as a silly thing to cover in that… with that kind of passion and intensity. But, at the time, we were totally aware of the viewers wanting to see this ceremony. And I remember being super on-edge because I was quite new in the transmission controller job and the stakes were very high. You know, if we screwed this up, the viewer would never forgive ITV. And we nearly did screw it up. I mean, there was a… by this point, we had a sort of crude satellite situation at Granada where we could pick up satellite feeds. And I remember preparing for that programme, saying to the engineers in the room next to me, “Make sure I have the BBC feed, if I need it.” And they say, “Well, you can’t do that!” I couldn’t… and I said, “Look. Just do it. Put it on. Get it on a satellite. Put it on an input and I’ll take responsibility,” because I wanted every backup I could get. And, absolutely, we did. We’d lost about 15 or 20 seconds of coverage. ITV’s outside broadcast truck just went dead for about 20 seconds. And I used the BBC’s feed, and I don’t think anybody ever noticed that. BBC certainly didn’t know it at the time. I never told anybody. I didn’t want to have the argument, but I just used the BBC to cover the gap. It was that important, that kind of thinking, you know?

Before I got promoted, while I was still an assistant, albeit experienced by a couple of years, I remember a bank holiday Monday, which was a lovely feeling in transmission, actually. There was a skeleton staff in the station, and bank holidays, Christmas Day, and all that kind of stuff were a lovely feeling at work. So, it’s a bank holiday Monday. Snooker final was on the BBC, which we were sort of watching from the Crucible. And my controller went out for a long, boozy lunch, probably four hours, which was a perfectly fine, routine stuff on a bank holiday. No problem. So, I stayed there on my own. And we were showing Coronation Street and ITN called on the red phone in a panic because the SAS were about to storm the embassy, you know, for that embassy siege. And they wanted to break into Coronation Street for the coverage. And I was there on my own. The controller was in the pub. I thought, “What am I going to do?” If you disrupt the sequence of Coronation Street that is for the rest of history. You’re going to have to be playing catch-up. So, I said “No. As soon as the end credits stop, I will come to you, but I’m not cutting into the programming.” And so they reluctantly accepted that. So, as soon as the story finished, and as soon as those trumpets started up for the theme tune at the end of Coronation Street, I had the announcer quickly introduce ITN and off we went. And at that exact moment, the SAS stormed the embassy. And I figured out afterwards they were watching the television off-air. They wanted to be live on television. Because there was no way that they could have timed it that way without watching it. So, as soon as we cut to the scene, the action started and it lasted about 35 minutes, I believe. In the trivial Guinness Book of Records type of thing, I believe it’s the longest newsflash in UK television history. And so I did all of that and then we got back on schedule with the rest of the programmes and then the TC came back from the pub and said, “Everything all right?” I said, “Yes. I’m not doing too bad.”

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