Thursday, October 23, 2003

An early brush with the long arm of the Spanish law.

As the press centre didn't open until 8am we were forced to improvise for our early morning radio interviews for the Today programme and 5 Live Breakfast. Normally this is straightforward enough -- simply a case of sticking the satellite dish out of the hotel window and broadcasting from the comfort of the room.

The hotel we're staying at here in Madrid, however, faces an office block which blocks the satellite signal.

So, at half past six this morning, I found myself setting up the dish atop a rubbish bin around the corner from the hotel, where the sightline of the satellite was better (who said foreign news was glamorous.)

All seemed to be going swimmingly -- the satellite signal was nice and strong, the ISDN line connected with no problem, we were ready to broadcast.


Seconds before Chris Morris was about to go on air on 5 Live two vanloads of Spanish police screeched to a halt at the roadside. As soon as they saw out broadcasting equipment, lights flashing, dish aloft, they freaked.

"Pasaporte, pasaporte," they hissed, obviously convinced that they'd stumbled across a terrorist command centre operating from a dustbin in downtown Madrid.

We showed our passports, trying to remain as tranquilo as possible even though we'd just been knocked off air by the Keystone Cops.

After a light roughing up and a long squint at our papers they seemed satisfied that we didn't represent an imminent threat to national security.


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