By Martin McNamara
In what is seen as a world broadcasting first, Channel 4 is hiring a team of Muslim journalists so it can present a nightly news report from inside Mecca during the week of Hajj.
Each February, millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca for the most important religious event in the Muslim calendar.
The TV series will follow six pilgrims, including three from the UK, on their journey to Mecca. For the week starting Monday 10 February, Channel 4 will broadcast a daily 10-minute piece, shot inside Mecca, about their progress.
Only Muslims are allowed into the area and so ITN, which is producing the broadcasts for Channel 4, has put together an experienced team of 12 Muslim journalists for the operation, gathered from around the UK and the world.
Series executive producer Mark Rubens said: “The Hajj as an event is unparalleled anywhere in the world. It has been filmed before but not in the way that we’re trying to do it.” The project presents logistical nightmares for Rubens. Several crews will work on a 24-hour schedule following the pilgrims. Every day their material has to be transported 50 miles to Jeddah, while Rubens and his editors will produce the packages for London.