COVID-19: TV newsrooms get bulletins rolling with staggered workforce, sanitation measures

Mediahouses kick in contingency measures including operating from remote locations, providing sanitised vehicles for those on field assignments and making use of advanced communication systems  

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Mar 23, 2020 9:21 AM
Newsroom

Do TV reporters have the luxury of Work From Home? Even as corporate India slips into the WFH mode, television newsrooms have managed to keep the updates running since the citizens are now to stay updated, more than ever eager, considering the global health crisis.

However, news broadcasters are keeping in mind the safety of their employees, with hygiene SOPs and contingency set-ups at multiple locations.

For Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network, journalists have worked in such situations earlier too. “Newsrooms might be vulnerable to this epidemic but this isn’t a first for us. As journalists, we have always worked during such situations - strikes, natural disasters, riots, epidemics, and wars. We realize our sense of responsibility during these times to contribute to wider cultural currents of cosmopolitanism whilst taking necessary precautions.”

Interestingly, some newsrooms, if not all, have kept the option of work from home open. Thanks to technology, newsrooms are efficiently handling operations from remote locations.  

S Srivathsan, EVP and Head, Human Resources, Times Network, says: “Nearly 65% of our workforce is at home and our productivity has not been impacted. In fact, we are seeing better output in certain areas. We have designated two headquarters (one each in Bombay and Delhi) and also shadow locations for these offices.”

Pandey too said that the ABP newsrooms and majority of its employees have the flexibility to work remotely. “Our contingency measures for digital business and long-term resilience will ensure seamless business continuity and optimum employee productivity. This is our time to thrive and we want our advertising partners to stay invested in the news genre.”

The HQ teams at Times Network have been split into two to provide contingency support in case anyone in one of the teams needs to be quarantined in the coming few weeks.

“The HQ is being kept ready for work from office if the need arises. All other safety mechanisms like temperature measurements, masks and sanitization are in place. We have instructed our WFH employees to continue to be at home even after office hours to restrict social interaction. We had already designed our system tools to allow all us to operate remotely. This has been useful and handy and we have been able to make the transition seamlessly,” Srivathsan added.

Work from home or not, employee safety has been top priority for all broadcasters.

Republic Team has taken all necessary precautions to safeguard the interest of its employees. Vikas Khanchandani, Group CEO at Republic Media Network, says people on the field — reporters and camera crew — are being provided sanitised vehicles for travelling during assignments.

“The network has made sure there are critical back up teams and spaces to maintain continuity and safety of the operations or employees. The sanitisation of people, equipment, surfaces and carpets has been increased manifold with every shift and movement of teams across departments. It’s critical that our organisation is making sure we do everything in our capacity for the safety of everyone, including our own teams,” said Khanchandani.

The TV9 Bharatvarsh editorial workforce, required to work from office, has been reduced by half. “This is being achieved by calling in 50 per cent staff on alternate days,” a spokesperson for the organisation said.

While field reporters, camera persons and sales team employees have been provided with N95 masks, they have also been asked to avoid high-risk places. Those reporting to office are being checked with thermal guns and the bio-metric attendance system has been replaced with face-reading mechanism.

TV9 has also ensured that cabs being used for pick or drop of the employees are being disinfected regularly with sanitizers being placed inside vehicles too.

CNN News18, according to sources, has put up contingency set-ups at various locations. Senior editorial resources Anand Narasimhan and Shreya Dhoundial have reportedly been sent to Mumbai to work with one such contingency team.

Amidst all this crisis management, mediahouses have assured that there has been no quality of news being delivered.

Quality news has not taken a backseat even in these times of crisis, said Pandey. “The responsibility of news channels is more than ever now since they need to adequately inform the public about the latest developments and generate maximum awareness on the epidemic. At ANN, our topmost priority is to ensure that the viewers stay apprised at all times, while also safeguarding the health of our employees. We also need to inspire the public to act logically by dispelling panic and rumours,” he reiterated.

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