Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Well over 20 years ago I had the offer to work as an editor for the new local Cable TV station called Clyde Cable Vision. It was to be a great adventure and the start of what we now call multi-skilling.

The picture above is me doing sound with my friend to this day Ian the cameraman, we had such a laugh in those days and the best was the sheer snoby reactions we got with STV and BBC Scotland. They were intrenched in union nonsense and had far to many crew, director, camera, sound, lighting and reporter while we had camera, sound and reporter.

We were looked down upon as the amateurs in the big mans world of news coverage, we were in fact a threat to them as the “bean counters” (accountants) could see the same job being done by less people…5 jobs done by 3 people = less wages to pay.

This was not a deliberate ploy by our boss Joyce rather a more practicle outlook on the same job and Joyce had come from university TV and new how to work with less crew. As you can see above Joyce was not scared to get her hands dirty and join us on the coal face from time to time.

We had our own director, George who was also happy to lend a hand filming when needed, I still keep in touch with my good friend Jenny who was our presenter.

So why did the Glasgow Channel fail, apart from loosing me two years down the line it became obvious to those who new the inevatable by then that cable TV was in general a flop.

We targeted the less well off areas in Glasgow this was a major mistake from day one, thinking that people with more time on their hands would have time to sit and watch telly forgetting that if you have 3 children to pay for the last thing you are going to want is a monthly cable TV debt around your neck.

We gave people a starter incentive from memory it was 6 months for the price of 12, so as you can see on paper we had a lot of viewers signed up for 12 months but keeping them after this period proved very difficult.

The second disaster was the cabling itself, it was becoming a money monster, you can’t show cable TV unless you run the wiring up a street and that was becoming a financial nightmare.

I was not working for Clyde Cable TV when it finally sank into the River Clyde with a pile of debt round its neck but I was sad that many of my friends lost good jobs because of a bad idea that should have never started…in my opinion.

This brings me to August 2011 and the coverage produced by a small television station in Birmingham called Sangat TV. Although Sangat are a charity the main difference between Cable TV and Sangat is the hook up with Sky and having a channel on the Sky box itself. This gives Sangat a major advantage over cable TV because they can be seen all over the UK and beyond which gives them a fantastic viewing footprint.

The other key component to their recent viewing figures is Twitter, they were being re tweeted all over the place and Sky viewers were switching over to channel 847 in their hundreds to watch Sangat’s run and gun TV coverage.

We are so used to watching polished, perfect television these days…Sangat gave us a raw no frills version of events even although they seem to take the words “live” beyond its true meaning they opened a door only seen many years ago when TV was first introduced and we were all in awe of its “liveness”.

It was their ability to head into the middle of confrontations with rioters and police alike that had us sitting on the edge of our seats and the boyish honesty of the presenter who was making it clear that we are all “Jock Tamsons bairns” as we say in Scotland.

So there you have it, Cable TV by it’s name implies a cable to view it’s channels and cable trenching is mega expensive while it seems you can tag onto Sky for a minimal cost and get yourself seen all over the UK if not the world and with a prevailing riot or two in your patch along with Twitter the world is indeed your broadcasting empire.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

One thought on “The pitfalls of working in Cable TV

  1. I confess to being the fashion victim in the ice-cream salesmans jacket in the photo above !
    I think the cable tv concept was ahead of its time for the 1980s.
    Look now in 2011 at how a large majority of people now consume a variety of video media through cable in the the form of broadband via BT or Virgin etc.

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