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Wild about going live
A BBC broadcaster uses the new technology
The new kit gives reporters much more freedom
Wisycom is the new buzz word in radio. It's a wire-less microphone that enables reporters to broadcast live, in quality, up to half a mile from a radio car. Samantha Upton, specialist radio field producer, explains its virtues.

We first started using the kit on the road when we got our new radio cars last spring.

Its first success was when Five Live Breakfast broadcast from Holloway prison. Presenter Victoria Derbyshire was deep inside the prison and the radio car was outside.

This would not otherwise have been possible as there was no time to install an ISDN line.

The fire fighters' strike was another triumph. Stephen Cape was often found lurking around union leader Andy Gilchrist, and frequently chased him up the road shouting "You're live on Five Live, Mr Gilchrist!" - much to the disgust of reporters from other stations.

Live on air with no wires trailing behind him and an enormous range, he had the ability, quite literally, to follow the union representatives into the negotiating room.

Portable transmitters

He got a number of exclusive interviews and quotes, and turned the reporting of the strike into a story of epic proportions for Five Live listeners.

It may sound like something conjured up by Dorothy and the Tin Man in a bored moment but it's one of the most useful new radio tools currently being used on the road.

Unlike a radio microphone, which has a power output measured in milliwatts and a range of 30-50 yards, the Wisycom has a power output of one watt and a much longer range (up to half a mile in the right conditions).

Protestors campaign against George W Bush's visit to London
Wisycom enables reporters to get closer to developing stories
You can have the receiver in the radio car a 10 minute walk away, down several flights of stairs and across a car park. Perfect if you can't get an interviewee to go to the radio car.

During the progressive governance conference in Surrey last summer, there were dozens of heads of state from around the world. Security was very tight and the Swedish Prime Minister wouldn't come out of the building.

Using the wireless kit, I managed to get Goran Persson live on the World Service in broadcast quality from the comfort of his armchair.

Personal safety

It lets the reporter get much closer to the story, personal safety permitting. During the protests against the George W Bush visit last year, Jane Peel broadcast live from within a huge demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

The police made us park the radio car around the back of Admiralty Arch, about 300 yards from the square itself. With a normal radio microphone we would not have been able to get into the thick of the crowds to broadcast from the spot where a pile of placards had been set alight.

With the Wisycom, Jane could unobtrusively wander into the square. If the situation had turned nasty, the kit is lightweight enough to move quickly out of danger.

Flexibility

It does have its drawbacks however. You can only use one at a time within a certain area.

Also, the current aerial is about two feet long and, as my mother would say, could have an eye out. A shorter spiral aerial is being investigated.

It also gets through a lot of batteries, although in the radio car the display handily shows how much power is left in the remote unit. But the flexibility is huge and gives radio a real edge over television for live broadcasting.

One of the most recent, and frankly surreal, uses was during the long wait outside Broadcasting House on the day of Greg Dyke's resignation.

Peter Hunt braved sub-zero temperatures, often on his knees, on the pavement outside the temporary entrance in Portland Place.

Billed as 'imminent' the statement of our former director general was repeatedly delayed over the course of several hours.

On Five Live Simon Mayo cued over to Peter again and again and we heard Peter being shoved, trodden on and shouted at as BBC press officers tried to organise the assembled scrum.

"They're bending my aerial!" cried Peter who, despite carrying the handbag-sized transmitter that goes with the system and its two-foot aerial, had managed to push to the front of the scrum.

"Tell them you're live on air Peter," said Simon Mayo.

"I don't think they're that fussed," he replied.

At that moment Greg appeared, having been spun onto the pavement by the revolving door.

After hours of waiting he finally addressed the media and Peter and the Five Live listeners heard Greg's resignation speech in broadcast quality.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


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