16/2 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tim Gorter’s passport is one of the most heavily stamped in the TV news industry. He lives out of a suitcase, sometimes not knowing where he’ll be tomorrow, let alone next week or next month.
He’s one of the small band of uplink engineers who travel to the world’s major stories, often at a moment’s notice.
“I’m on the road for about eleven months of the year,” said Tim.
‘Home’ doesn’t exist. He has a Dutch passport but has few ties to the Netherlands. He has a house in New Zealand, yet never lives there. On the occasional idle day, he likes to visit friends in Barcelona.
“Last night I met an old school-friend from New Zealand who I hadn’t seen for 17 years,” said Tim, aged 28. “We caught up on each other’s lives. He’s happy living a regular lifestyle whereas I became very self-conscious when I described how I could be in one place one week and somewhere else the next. I found myself thinking ‘Maybe I should just shut up’.”
Much of his work is with the larger uplink companies such as Actua News in Switzerland, Newsforce and SNG Broadcast Services who supply the dishes at major international events.
“The job’s fun,” said Tim. “Sometimes it’s very exciting and you meet a lot of great people. There’s a small community of engineers, co-ordinators and cameramen who travel to the same jobs. We’re all mates and when it’s not so busy, we enjoy partying and socializing.”
The uncertainty of not knowing where he’ll be in a week or fortnight’s time is part of the job’s attraction.
“Last year I came out of Pristina,” said Tim, “and stopped over in Geneva. I was asked: ‘Are you available to work?’ I said ‘I will be tomorrow’. The day after that I was on a plane heading for East Timor.”
And then having worked for several weeks in Dili, he flew back to Europe, picked up another contract while he was still at Heathrow airport and was off again a day later to Jakarta.
The constant travelling has one serious drawback: there’s little opportunity to develop personal relationships.
“It’s very difficult to have a love life,” explained Tim. “At present, I’m in between relationships. Most of my girlfriends give up on me after six months. I regard this as a lifestyle I’ve chosen for the moment but which won’t last forever.”
The job, itself, he believes will also change in the future. He said, “A lot of the equipment is getting more automated and easy to operate. You won’t always need pure engineers; there’ll be cameramen or editors who are multi-tasked. But at special operations, like the ones EBU run, I think you’ll always have engineers because the job they do now will expand so that they look after whole communications systems.”
He went on, “I think within five years you will see suitcase-size antennae capable of transferring video. But for live-quality events, you will still need a large dish. You will find that the equipment behind the dish will get smaller but the dish size will remain the same, although lighter.”