Frances Harrison – Q&A

Frances Harrison


Where are you from?

How did you get started in broadcasting?
I got a job in the South Asian Region of BBC World Service Radio in Bush House straight after doing an MA in South Asian Area Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Had done some student radio at Cambridge too – hacking tape with a razor blade in a very inept way so far as i recall.

When was that?

Why News broadcasting?
The adrenilin, the deadlines, the excitement, coordinating so many things at once.

Where else would have viewers seen or heard you before?
I am in Tehran now, before I was in Sri Lanka for 4 years, Malaysia for 2 years, Bangladesh for 2 years and Pakistan for 1 year.

What is your Best on-air moment?
I have no idea. But I have loved reporting from some really odd places – in Bangladesh we used to do endless pieces to camera on boats and even wading around the sea. Doing Videophone lives from rebel Tamil Tiger territory in northern sri lanka was fun – and certainly a first to broadcast live from a place that had been cut off from the outside world for a decade.

What is your Worst on-air moment?
Most have been deliberately erased from my memory or I wouldn’t be able to go live again. I do remember doing a live for the world today programme (world service radio) while in Bangladesh one morning. I asked the producer how long she wanted from the phono and she said 3 minutes and I hope it’s worth it! I felt rather squished. And on the roof in tehran doing a video phone live about elections while a bird poohed on me from above. I heard the whizz noise and then the plop on my shoulder but managed to resist the temptation to look at the damage before I had finished my answer – it’s always important to keep absolutely still with a video phone live otherwise it distorts. Actually there are many animal related awful moments – the time i was about to go live in Sri lanka in the cupboard studio I had and a really huge cockroach appeared to listen in with its waggling antennae. Or the time a large snake reared its ugly head at the french doors of my office while I was on the phone to London.

What would you like to do before your career ends?
Interview the Tamil Tiger leader – I feel that’s unfinished business. Write a book about what it has been like working for the BBC in Tehran. Build my retirement home in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh on an island – or if the civil war ends in Sri Lanka i would consider Mullaitivu on the east coast currently in rebel territory as a location for my dream house.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Amuse my kid, read novels

What advice would you give to anyone that would like to get into the broadcasting world?
Luck plays a large role in it and the main thing is to enjoy what you do.

A big thanks to Frances for taking part.

Posted on Thursday 21st May 2009 by Johnnie Larkin