Friday, 24 June 2016
Brexit results: My all-nighter behind the scenes at Sky News
Not many people bothered to stay up to watch the EU Referendum Result play out. Most people woke up to the news that Britain would never be the same again.
Not me though. Rather than just heading off to bed and checking Twitter in the morning, I embedded myself at Sky headquarters in Isleworth, West London to stay up all night with the Sky News crew instead. How do you cover one of the most momentous political moments on TV? How do you tell the story of the night, and still have enough stamina when the result finally does come to digest what a Leave vote actually means for Britain?
This is the story of the night.
9pm - 11pm: Drones, colourful studios and buzz...
The Sky studio is looking very colourful as the team prepare for the polls to close. I know we're talking about serious, proper politics here but it's pretty isn't it?
Ahead of the coverage beginning, all the Sky newsreaders from Adam Boulton to Kay Burley are rehearsing their opening gambits from Westminster and other headquarters. I'm watching them on a screen in the Sky News office; it's surreal seeing them practise what in a matter of minutes will be national news. This stuff is scripted because the polls haven't yet closed, so it would be against Ofcom regulations to say anything about the way the day has gone.
Nick Phipps, who is the executive producer of all the EU Referendum coverage, tells me about how they've planned for the night ahead.
"What all the planning is about is really that we have every single option available, that we’re completely covered whether it’s in terms of being in the right place live, having the right presenters, making sure the results are going to be taken in accurately and sent out, whether its on TV or our mobile platforms, as quickly as possible and more quickly than the opposition.
"The main thing that we don’t do is build it as a solid thing. What we’re trying to do is put together the most incredible menu possible; it's a bit like there’s a kitchen in the background that’s cooking all of these incredible meals. And for myself and for the director Dave Gilman, basically once we go on air we’re just able to choose from this menu and jump between the courses".
He's in the gallery where things are incredibly tense. I'll go and sit there soon when things heat up but for now, I'm in the Sky News office, surrounded by lots of TV screens showing the BBC coverage, ITN coverage as well as the Sky coverage.
I've gone to have a look at a drone that's flying outside the office to give viewers an aerial view. Two men are controlling it and I'm deeply jealous; this is far better than the remote control helicopter I got for my 11th birthday and flew into a tree.
Nick Phipps has told me that they're expecting early results from the Isles of Scilly; this is probably the first time Sky News has ever been live from the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula.
"Because of the size of the isles they're one of the smallest electorates so not many votes to count, so we think they could be the first place to declare their result. Similarly with Gibraltar: the polls close an hour before us because they’re an hour ahead.
"We’re also in Sunderland, which has been first the last six elections to declare. They’re very good at getting results out there."
Sky will also give a projection in the early hours of the morning, declaring what they think the final result will be based on the votes that have come in so far.
"If I was a betting man," says Nick, "I’d say we’d be doing that around 4 or 5 am."
Well, it's only 11 pm now. Time to settle in...