BBC Election 97
Thursday 1st May 21.55 to Friday 2nd May 16:00

So, who won the election? I think it was the BBC. The election night coverage from 10pm through almost uninterrupted until 4pm the next day was an astounding achievement. David Dimbleby was once again the anchor for the night, with Jeremy Paxman making his first appearance as political interrogator, and doing a very good job. One of the benefits of election night is that politicians for once tend to tell the truth and actually say what they are thinking. Of course they still need a little coaxing and Paxman did well with this. An amusing thought is that one of the first to be interviewed by him was Michael Portillo, and Jeremy said that he was one of the few ministers who would be safe. Five hours later we found out that Michael Portillo was yet another government minister to bite the dust.

The polls and predictions were for once very accurate. It was clear that the exit poll prediction was a Labour landslide, but given the error of the 1992 exit poll, the BBC erred on the side of caution and simply said "Landslide Likely".

Peter Snow was having fun with all of his electronic toys and they were used to good effect. The space invaders style target map, whereby each Tory marginal was blown up as it was taken was very amusing. I was interested in the robotic camera that was used in front of Snow's video wall, which you could see pop up as they linked to him. I also thought that the main video wall behind Dimbleby was well designed and flexible.

I am told that the ITN coverage on the other side announced two thirds of the results before the BBC. I was lucky enough to have two screens available and watched both at the same time, alternating the sound if something looked interesting. I am unable to confirm that the other side did better, it seemed roughly even to me, although I was keeping tally. I can say the the ITN graphics were somewhat confusing to me. I was never sure whether I was seeing actual results or predictions. The ITN target chart seemed to show actual results, as a lot of them were greyed out to begin with. If this is the case, I am unclear why my local constituency was shown as a Labour gain two and a half hours before the result was actually announced.

Technically everything seemed to go well. The number of outside broadcasts involved was huge, and they all seemed to work as required. Only once did I see what I think was a satellite uplink terminate early, but the interview was over by then anyway. If you looked carefully at the video wall , you could often see lots of interesting goings on! My trusty radio scanner picked up the studio talkback which was very enlightening. This was being used for the feed to Old Bexley and Sidcup, where Ted Heath was returned yet again.

One interesting point to note was that virtually all of ITN's OBs had a one to two second delay on them, if anyone know the reason, I would be interested to know.

The only criticism I have of the BBC coverage was the 6am slot, when the same studio was used, but this time under the title of Breakfast News and a different presenter. It was clear that the incoming shift needed a little time to adjust, as we were presented with the least professional part of the whole broadcast, links to unsuspecting reporters, presenter with no idea what was coming next or what to say. It made you appreciate how good the A team were.

Some might say that the BBC coverage was over the top, but I do not think so. The election of a new government is a vitally important event, and I was glad to see the BBC throwing their full resources in to covering it. My only disappointment was having the Election Night Armastice on BBC2. There are only so many programmes I can watch and video at the same time!

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Last Updated 29-Mar-2000