Sushil Shetty
President,
Jai Maharashtra News Channel

Broadcast stations on the move

Unforgettable stories of struggle, testing times, and operational learnings on the move, have compelled the broadcast industry to re-look deeply into the workflows of TV stations. Technologies have to find quick fixes and long-term solutions to the emerging demand. And yes, cost effective ones!

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a 360-degree change in the broadcast parameters. Unlike all industries, the small screen subset of media has particularly taken a bigger hit, especially because it donned the responsibility to fill in for the huge vacuum created by closure of outdoor entertainment.

Though television can be viewed from the comfort of family living rooms and bed rooms, content creation makes it necessary for people to physically collaborate on the set – and that is where things get challenging. Time has changed! The most pertinent question that has emerged is: Can social distancing or physical distancing be achieved in such circumstances? At least the industry has answered it in an affirmative way.

Within a span of 60 days, our newsroom donned many new avatars that no broadcast engineer or techie had ever imagined. From operating the automations with one-tenth of the team’s strength to migrating the studio and PCR to multiple and remote locations, we have done it all. Before February 2020, it was unimaginable. At every point that broadcast technology separated itself from telecommunication or internet-based, or mobile technologies, the pandemic busted the myth. Studios have accepted that it is the era of integrated technologies and the sooner the industry accepts it, the better it is.

Depending on the longevity of the 2020 pandemic and uncertainty looming large, broadcast TV will have to evolve into a new technological discovery, busting all existing myths. It will be the era of adapting to innovative and flexible technologies during and after this crisis. Like never before, news gathering is happening through mobiles, and every handheld device, using commercial applications. And the entertainment industry is webcasting for its audience to keep them engaged. Even the worst technologically averse audience has adapted overnight. So how could the stations, not reciprocate?

It is too early to assess the impact of all these transformations. But cost of operations and price-sensitive markets of broadcast technologies shall be dictating the consumption henceforth. One of the most valuable takeaways from the stories of survival of newsrooms and broadcast operations from remote locations is that WFH collaborations are here to stay. Our network’s evolution shall also look forward to cost-effective subscription-based technological transformations to multiple and remote broadcast hubs.

Maintaining broadcast quality during pandemic restrictions was a challenge. At first, it seemed to be a nightmare, but working from home or remote centers, practicing social distancing, self isolation, and lockdown have become the new normal. Overnight, the face-to-face method of running studios has given way to the digital and virtual PCRs (production control rooms). At news stations, integration of live events has become a daily affair. The broadcast industry needs a vaccine of sorts to provide the new workflow through technological solutions that addresses the newer needs of running business in difficult times.

The broadcast solutions really need to stand out. The innovators of visual medium shall face the challenge to up their game and produce TV-quality experiences that offer the next best thing 2020 onward. The remote approach is already being adopted by the current broadcasters. Networks struggling to collate news programs, sometimes resulting in glitches, drop-outs, and video-quality issues streamed via Wi-Fi-based internet connections need a seamless integration to this solution. No format and compression wars are going to help.

Running a skeleton crew, while acting as a central hub and one or more studios can plug in or takeover, is the need of the hour. Nobody is waiting for a dish or an antenna to be the only interface to connect – just that the broadcast world needs to find relevant answers.

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