5 Mar 2010

Ready to edit our day with the bomb disposal team for TV

“I have the impression that we are the first TV team to be allowed out with the people who deal with the IED roadside bombs, the key insurgent weapon in Helmand,” writes Alex Thomson.

Afghanistan: Well, the good news is that Stuart-the-cameraman has finally had a shower after six days. I, of course, never ever smell. Just as I am incapable of being wrong and so forth. Anyhow, he is scrubbed up, sitting down and swearing again at the editing equipment.

So all is well.

We’ve a few hours before our helicopter takes us to Camp Bastion. Except we haven’t because it’s now coming in one hour. Except it’s not now coming at all today. Except that it is now coming but at 2 o’clock this afternoon. Except…

You get the picture. Possession being nine tenths of ownership we have a room, no dust and 240 volts to play around with so will sit here and begin our latest edit until we hear the downwash of incoming rotor blades – and even then it won’t be the Chinook for us no doubt.

And this will be an interesting edit. I have the impression that we are the first TV team to be allowed out with the people who deal with the IED roadside bombs, the key insurgent weapon in Helmand.

For very good reasons this whole issue is (rightly) festooned with potential Op Sec problems – Operational Security. In English it all means the rather common sense idea that there is not much point putting on TV stuff which will get British soldiers killed.

And before anybody starts – yes, we’d not put stuff on TV which would get Taliban soldiers killed if we were out with them as Channel 4 News often is. All being fair in love and war etc.

Basically, here’s how it’s going to work. Nobody around here has either the time or inclination actually to sit in on an edit which might take 10 hours or more. So what Stuart and I will do is make the film we would really like to show on the telly, then let the Colonel in charge of media matters have a close look at it.

Then it’s the process of perhaps changing the words or changing the words and pictures. In the end we will reach an agreement on just how much we can show and how much we can explain of what we spent 12 hours filming in the blazing desert heat, yesterday.

TV is great and sometimes important, but it ain’t worth getting either yourself of somebody else killed for – particularly somebody else actually. So yes, I have no problem with military censorship strictly on the grounds of Op Sec.

Taste, embarrassment, comment …now those are all very different issues but I’ve rarely had problems with the military on those issues in recent years.

So come the edit – or the rough cut which will be shown to the Colonel here – I’m pretty confident we can all get something on air which will be highly watchable and considered militarily safe, but there’s a lot of talking ahead.

Meanwhile we are off on another Operation with the Coldstream Guards, so forgive me if nothing gets to be on the telly much before the middle of next week.

Will keep you posted on how things progress.