BBC News plans unprecedented coverage of election night with cameras at every single count, a focus on nations and regions, and transparency behind the scenes.

For the UK’s general election on 4th July, the BBC aims to stream live video from each of the 650 MP declarations in a likely first for any UK broadcaster. It will have camera operators at select constituencies but the bulk of coverage will be shot from iPhones by local BBC News and Radio producers and reporters.

The Election Hub will be in use for the first time in Broadcasting House

The Election Hub will be in use for the first time in Broadcasting House

Source: BBC

“We can’t guarantee this will happen, given issues with connectivity, but we have upped our game and this is the ambition,” says Morwen Williams, Director, Media Operations, BBC. “We will go live with each count on the BBC News website.”

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For the BBC it’s always more important to be accurate than first with news, she says. “Our reputation is based on always being accurate.”

Morwen Williams, Director, Media Operations, BBC

Morwen Williams, BBC

Source: BBC

She describes a gold, silver, bronze ranking in importance for the election counts it covers with a reporting team. These include “totemic locations” like Sunderland and Blyth Valley which are often one of the first to declare and which keeps the programme’s political pundits busy for the first hour or so before the trickle turns into a stream. Video footage from these places is often pooled with other broadcasters.

“We have another level of provision for places which may not offer the best editorial story but where technical difficulty is an issue,” Williams explains. “Stoke, for instance, tends to have limited connectivity at the venue where they do the count so it needs a truck and a complex cable run.”

The BBC will provision several camera operators with LiveU and Mobile Viewpoint bonded cellular links to circumnavigate limited connectivity at venues such as local leisure centres.

Broadcasting House takes centre stage

All feeds including from iPhones will be routed back to Broadcasting House in a departure from 2019 when these links were managed at Elstree.

Newsnight on the road with an audience in Birmingham looking at health (2)

Newsnight on the road with an audience in Birmingham looking at health 

Source: BBC

About 40 editorial staff will manage the 650 feeds as they come in overnight with half a dozen producers selecting which to offer up to the live broadcast which is once again directed by the “highly experienced” Chris Cook.

The main studio presentation hosted by Laura Kuenssberg and Clive Myrie at Broadcasting House will feature an AR wall depicting Downing Street and a greenscreen for displaying video interviews.

It is also making use of studios in various nations and regions, with Kirsty Walk broadcasting from Pacific Quay, Glasgow, and Jeremy Vine at BBC Wales in Cardiff using large-scale AR graphics to illustrate events.

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The BBC will be on air from 9.55pm ready to go live with the exit poll on the hour. As in 2019, this will also be projected as a graphic onto the front of Broadcasting House, weather permitting.

On Friday (5th July), the BBC will broadcast from a glass studio on the green opposite Westminster.

Election coverage and formats

Election night is the culmination of Williams’ role in this campaign which began with planning the debates in the run-up to the vote. It centred on ‘Your Voice, Your Vote’ as a way of putting public stories and questions at the heart of its election coverage.

Clive Myrie and Laura Kuenssberg (Image - Jeff Overs-BBC)

Clive Myrie and Laura Kuenssberg

Source: Jeff Overs, BBC

“We’re on the road, talking to our audiences, meeting our audiences, reflecting what they’re saying. They’ve been contacting us with their issues and we’ve gone on to do a story such as about the crisis in adult social care,” she says.

Outline plans began over six months ago including agreeing that the BBC would want to have election debates in different parts of the country. Williams’ team identified locations, including the debate hosted on June 26 from Nottingham Trent University, and that it would take place the week before the vote, several months ago.

“The venue had been recced. We’d already talked to the outside broadcast company about the type of resources you’d need and when so that when the date of the election was announced we had a plan.”

Williams particularly likes the format of the one-to-one leaders interviewed by Nick Robinson. These she says, have nearly always had good news lines and the arguments have been clearer to understand than the speed dating style of some live debates.

Newsnight on the road with an audience in Birmingham looking at health

Newsnight on the road with an audience in Birmingham looking at health

Source: BBC

“We wanted something more informal so we chose a smaller lower key studio with Nick sitting opposite the leader and they talk for half an hour and it doesn’t get edited. I think that has been really important in getting to the real issues.”

Williams also says that the BBC is keen to show and tell people how things are done behind the scenes. For instance, it will contextualise where reporters are at various counts with a wider shot (or a drone if outside) showing the cameras, lights or the OB truck.

“Previously, you wouldn’t dream of showing a camera in a shot. But we do that now and people seem to like it.”

The BBC has transformed an area on the ground floor of Broadcasting House into a “Media Café” on election night which is where psephologist John Curtice will share his insights.

“It’s where lots of people are analysing results and we will make a point of walking our audience through that. We won’t just use it as a presentation area. It’s about lifting up the curtain to show people a little bit more about how we bring the information to them.”

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