Spotlight South West attracts some 300000 viewers each night. As such it attracts the highest audience per head of population of all the BBC evening regional TV programmes, and it also attracts many more viewers than the ITV local news programme. Even so, because of the rapid take up of smartphones and tablets, in common with all other regional programmes and national TV as a whole, its viewing figures have fallen quite significantly in the last 10 years, when they were around 400000.
Hamish had brought along the equipment he used to conduct his interviews, the camera, his smartphone, his tablet, his microphone, his two earpieces, a wind muffler for the microphone on his phone, and his make-up compact. Now that cameras have become much lighter and more portable, more often than not, the reporter films the interviews on location himself. Indeed while BBC Spotlight has 10 reporters, the station only has 5 cameramen.
It is well known that presenters need to have the facility to receive instructions from programme producers in the studio. What may not be as well known is that, sometimes, a south west local TV reporter may need to be in communication with two stations at once. Hence he needs two earpieces - one tuned to the Spotlight station in Plymouth - the other to the BBC South West station in Bristol. While taking these instructions, he could well be simultaneously speaking to the camera, reading off a portable teleprompter (his iPad) that he is controlling with his foot, conducting an interview, and operating the camera. It is evident that to be a successful BBC reporter one needs to be well coordinated.
Another feature of the job is that until he checks in at the start of his shift, he does not know where he will be sent to produce a report for that evening's programme. His normal patch stretches from Ashburton to Tiverton, Exeter and across to Axminster. However, as needs dictate, he can be sent anywhere within the south-west region. There was one notable occasion when he was initially sent up to Chivenor to do a piece about a helicopter there. When he had reached South Molton a call from the office directed him to conduct an interview at RNAS Yeovilton instead. Once he arrived at Yeovilton he was told that the interview there had been cancelled and that he was to go to Chivenor after all. It is a good job that he enjoys driving.
The most memorable trip he had was to Antigua, to interview two transatlantic rowers who had been rescued after getting into difficulties and were coming ashore on Antigua. As the two were based in the south-west, Spotlight editors felt it appropriate to send a reporter there to interview them when they reached dry land. Hamish said that when he checked in at the airline desk at Gatwick the counter clerk thought there must be something wrong with his reservation because the system had got him down as returning from Antigua the following day. Hamish had to confirm to her that that was indeed the case, notwithstanding her belief that nobody went to Antigua for less than a week.
He got his interview and returned the following day having spent the grand total of about 16 hours on the island. He said that on that trip, some 10 years ago, he physically had to bring the interview tape back with him before it could be editted and transmitted. Now, with the advent of smartphones, good internet or satellite communications and high speed data transmission possible from most places, the reporter can do the interview, edit it and then transmit it to the station whilst on location.
As well as being entertained, at the end of the hour the audience was much more informed about all the effort that goes into making that 26 minutes and 30 seconds of local news on BBC TV each weekday night at 6:30 p.m.