The team behind Channel 5’s daily chat show reveal how they have adapted and found new ways of working in the nine months since the UK first went into lockdown
Jeremy Vine took up his position behind the desk at ITN Productions’ Gray’s Inn Road studios just over two years ago, at the helm of Channel 5’s daytime topical debate show.
Brexit dominated the agenda during the bulk of the first 250 shows and the team prided itself on helping the audience navigate their way through the complex British issue, finding creative ways to cover the story every day.
Never could they have predicted that the political story which had consumed the daily agenda would be so rapidly and so completely over-shadowed by a global pandemic.
Navigating two lockdowns and three-tier systems amongst social distancing, Zoom debates and more than 1,300 rainbow pictures, Jeremy and the team reflect on the challenges of producing a two-hour show – and staying on air every day since lockdown began in March.
“Looking back it’s incredible that we had a show at all,” says Jeremy. “The challenges kept coming. We decided to not have our studio audience and we were the first live TV production to do that.
“Ian Rumsey, our boss, rightly anticipated what was coming and the priority was minimising risks and keeping the team safe. Getting the programme on air was of paramount importance – and we just thought, ‘Okay, we can cope with that’.
“The challenges kept on coming – including not having guests in the studio. At no point though were the team defeated and at every point the ITN Productions team swung into action. We delivered equipment to people’s homes to ensure that we could deliver the best quality show we could to our audience.
“Storm Huntley was in every day and Dr Sarah Jarvis was the regular medic who helped us decipher the very difficult daily information for viewers.”
Then as lockdown ended, the Zoom panellists gradually migrated back into studio, and when the second lockdown was announced, it was a simple reversion back to the panellists video-calling in from their houses.
“We kept going and we are still keeping going – through lockdown #2 and now as we head into understanding the next stage of the Tier system,” says Jeremy. “At every stage the team has adapted. For every problem, the team has found a solution.”
Deputy editor Jenny Line joined the team in March, just before the first lockdown began. Within days she was helping the team adapt to a new system of working from home, and she recognises there is a now a normality to the working day in comparison to the adrenaline-driven nature of the crisis in the early days.
“One thing that kept us all together and bonded us is the shared experience of the unknown and the challenges we faced keeping the show going,” she says. “There are still some members of the team who I haven’t yet met face-to-face but our creativity and sheer determination have kept us all going.”
“At every stage the team has adapted. For every problem, the team has found a solution”
Editor Ian Jones adds: “Whether they have been working from home or in the office, gallery or studio on show days, everyone has pulled together. We are incredibly grateful to the team and very proud of the way people have helped each other to keep the show on air and performing so brilliantly.
“The thirst for information, the connection with the audience and the real-life experiences shared by the team, the panellists and, most importantly, the viewers, is precisely what makes the Jeremy Vine show unique.
“The response has reflected that – we were blown away when our call-out for rainbow pictures to celebrate the work of our NHS resulted in more than 1,300 being sent in.”
Figures have been excellent – some of the highest ratings in years – and viewer call-ins and social media engagement have all increased.
“What makes us really proud is that we’ve still delivered the diversity of topics that the audience loves but it’s all been delivered through the prism of what we’ve all been through – the shared experience of big stories is what sets us apart,” says Jeremy.
“I can’t believe we’re in our ninth month since lockdown. l know that getting this show on air has been a really bonding moment for the team; it’s also brought the programme closer to the audience so hopefully, we’ve been useful to Channel 5 too.”