The newscast must go on … but from a different place. I wish I knew the number of basements, closets and living rooms that have been converted to production studios these past few weeks. As orders were issued for folks to work-from-home, broadcasters opened their apartments and houses to viewers and listeners.
Broadcasters have always been creative in figuring out ways to get the word out during challenging times. But the flexibility on display by the nation’s broadcasters during the COVID-19 outbreak has been nothing short of extraordinary. Broadcast engineers and technologists are “MacGyver’ing” solutions to ensure that the public is protected, informed, and in this environment of social distancing, comforted.
Every day, I see stories of the extraordinary solutions being put in place. Whether it’s employing electronic news gathering spectrum to stay on the air when their studios are no longer safe or using satellite trucks as production facilities for the news, broadcasters are using every bit of spectrum available to keep the public safe and informed. While this list is not close to being all-inclusive, I wanted to share the broader picture with specific examples.
CBS This Morning accomplished three studio moves in a single week due to the threat of coronavirus exposure. They broadcasted from New York in the CBS Broadcast Center and the Ed Sullivan Theater as well as the CBS News bureau in Washington, D.C. (How ‘CBS This Morning’ Rolled With Three Studio Moves in One Week Amid Coronavirus Crisis – Variety)
At the same time and for the same reason, New York’s local CBS station, WCBS, originated its newscasts from CBS facilities on the West Coast in Los Angeles while weather forecasts came from the streets of Connecticut using a mobile weather vehicle and live truck. (CBS New York turns local news over to Los Angeles as studios remain closed – NewscastStudio)
Meteorologists like the ones at WDBJ in Roanoke, VA and WKYT in Lexington, KY moved from station weather centers to dining rooms some even complete with green screens and augmented reality sets. (Stations creating remote weather centers in meteorologists homes – NewsLab)
WBBM in Chicago is planning ahead in case they need to produce a newscast from the street should they be denied access to their building due to COVID-19. The contingency plan includes news trucks to serve as a makeshift production studio, control room and satellite uplink. (Remote Control: CBS 2 tests emergency newscast from the street – Robert Feder)
American University’s WAMU COVID-19 plan is to become a 100% virtual operation over several weeks. (COVID-19 and Public Radio: WAMU’s Game Plan – Radio World)
In Nashville, WSMV News 4 producer Jules Marcantonio was the first at her station to produce newscasts from her kitchen table. (Nashville TV station now has newscast producers working from home – NewsLab)
Many radio stations like the NRG Media stations have set up broadcast facilities in living rooms and attics. (NRG Media Omaha Giving Listeners ‘Great Local Radio’ Broadcasting ‘At Home’ – All Access)
ABC News introduced an augmented reality patient to visually explain coronavirus symptoms. (ABC introduces virtual coronavirus patient named ‘Gemma’ – NewscastStudio)
Fred Jacobs talked with numerous radio stations about what it’s like being on the radio during this crisis. Stories included measures to maintain the appropriate social distance, repeatedly disinfecting all the equipment, and on-air personalities “socially” distancing by becoming even more available via social media to stay connected with listeners when not on the air. (What’s It Like Being On The Radio During the Coronavirus Crisis? – Jacobs Media Strategies)
Using drones, stations can get interesting visuals for a bird’s eye view of the impact of social distancing on traffic, parks and other normally crowded areas. (7 hard-to-get drone visuals you can get during the COVID-19 pandemic – RJI)
Broadcasters’ service and commitment to our community isn’t slowing down, and neither will their creative thinking.
There are also resources available to help broadcasters during the COVID-19 pandemic
The National Association of Broadcasters is providing tools and resources to help stations accurately cover COVID-19 and prepare for the impacts on staff, communities and businesses. The toolkit includes PSAs produced by the NAB as well as from the Red Cross and Ad Council, guidance on prevention and precautions, creating response management teams and trusted sources, and coverage of what stations are doing to keep their communities informed.
Cyber Awareness for Broadcasters Online Course — (now available for FREE)
This online course is tailored to the needs of the broadcasting professional and provides each staff member with a level of awareness as well as tools to help keep their organization safe. To help address industry concerns regarding cyber-crime during the COVID-19 health crisis, this course is being made available on a complimentary basis for a limited time.