Suzanne Lord

I currently lead the largest technical on-air team in UK news. My department – UK Output Operations – is a team of 450 working across television, radio and digital ensuring the news is broadcast in up to 30 languages 24/7.

In the last year we successfully outputted one of the most watched overnight General Elections programmes for the first time from our BBC HQ, using the latest technology to create a results programme which had huge impact as well as being a visual feast for our audience.

I joined as Head of Output Operations at BBC News just over twelve months ago. This was a step change in a media career which I started almost 20 years ago. Previously I worked as a journalist in television and radio news for the BBC and in the commercial sector. During this time I have seen the technology change substantially. As a journalist there is a need now to not only be editorially astute but also be technologically savvy.

In my first jobs in BBC local radio we used our mobile phone- which we had to share amongst the team- to tell the editor we were returning to base. In my last jobs as a newsgathering producer for the BBC, I was using it to gather and broadcast pictures to be used in pieces on our flagship news bulletins. Our technology got smaller and smarter and helped us be a nimble newsgathering crew.
My job as an assistant producer on CBBC Newsround gave me the opportunity to film to series of reports on the drought in north-eastern Kenya. The ability to work as a solo crew meant I got interviews with nomadic communities who were often very wary of people from other places. In a newly created role with the BBC’s user-generated content team I was able to build strong connections with our audiences for the BBC’s One, Six and Ten o’clock news, harnessing the increased use of cameras on phones to get to the stories that really mattered. One notable success was during the flooding of 2007 where in one week we got more than 20000 pictures and videos of how people where affected by the weather and it allowed us to get to the heart of the story.

My time in newsgathering took me across the globe covering some of the biggest stories of the time. Using remote technology in the form of BGANs and M4 satellite dishes our team of three were able to broadcast from shadow of the erupting Eyjajaffajökull volcano which had brought the majority of world travel to a halt. On the hunt for Raoul Moat we were able to broadcast from anywhere because of the VSAT we travelled in. Most recently, covering numerous General and Scottish Elections, we again could broadcast from buses or the sides of roads if we got new lines using a backpack full of bonded sim cards-a WMT. As one of the team, we all needed to know how to work and make the most of this technology.

Leaving the BBC I worked as Deputy Head of News in commercial television. In this leadership role I was able to create and implement development programmes, focussing heavily on mentoring and leadership skills to build and empower the teams I worked with. This led to a strong problem-solving ability and a greater confidence as well as a hunger to beat the competition to the story, with more limited resources. Our hard work was rewarded with some good audience figures and recognition from the Royal Television Society.

Now back at the BBC I am building on everything I have learnt so far to make UK Output Operations the best place in the BBC to work. I love thinking creatively about developing strong teams and this has stood me in good stead as I have a team I could not be prouder of. Since the pandemic began and we have been dealing with coronavirus, my team has consistently shown their passion, their dedication and their motivation for getting the news on air every single day.