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News channels are using technology to ensure smooth-functioning
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How news channels are exercising caution during the Coronavirus outbreak

News channels are using technology to ensure smooth-functioning
  • While technology has enabled a lot of work from the newsroom to be carried out remotely, there still are few people who need to work out of studios or venture out to report.
  • All media organizations are taking utmost care to keep the buildings sanitized, informing employees constantly about precautions and coming up with ways to ensure more people can work remotely.
  • In such a scenario, technology has become an enabler and is helping in ensuring there is minimal impact on the continuity of business.

As more and more cases of Coronavirus are being detected across the country, most organizations are making a move towards a work from home arrangement, asking employees to work remotely. However, when it comes to journalism, it is difficult to stay away from the action.

According to a CNN report, employees of several news organizations have been infected by the virus. Closer home, we have been much more successful in containing the virus so far with 166 reported cases and 4 deaths.

However, with repeated calls for social distancing, how are our newsrooms, especially news channels functioning, considering a lot of their work happens out of studios, which makes it difficult for certain employees to work remotely?

We reached out to a few prominent news channels in the country that told us how they are exercising caution to ensure their employees are not put at any risk.

The Times Network introduced work from home a week back and close to 65% of its employees are currently working remotely. Talking about how it has been working so far, S Srivathsan, EVP & Head – Human Resources, Times Network said, “We at Times Network were one of the first to introduce WFH as we had worked on this plan a week ago. 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 2 HQs (one each in Bombay and Delhi) and also shadow locations for these offices. HQ teams have been split into 2 to provide contingency support in case anyone in one team needs to get quarantined in the next few weeks. HQ bound employees have been instructed to not use any public transport including cabs.”

On how the imposition of self-isolation hasn’t affected their work at the network, Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network (ANN) said, “We have a very robust and well-tested work-from-home capability, and the majority of our 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.”

ANN has also come up with a campaign to raise awareness. Added Pandey, “We realize our sense of responsibility during these times to contribute to wider cultural currents of cosmopolitanism whilst taking the necessary precautions. In this vein, we had also initiated a public awareness campaign called ‘Corona Ko Dhona’ to strengthen the consciousness on the pandemic. The campaign has garnered tremendous traction and high engagement on all our social media pages, especially Facebook, with 4.94 million total interactions, so far.”

While most organizations have declared work from home for most employees, for people who cannot work remotely, organizations are diving teams into smaller teams to ensure there is a back-up. Sharing how things are shaping up inside the Network18 Group, Shereen Bhan, Managing Editor, CNBC-TV18 said, “While we have adopted work from home policy to a large extent, we can't have a complete work from home policy because we are live from 6 am to midnight across our different channels. And you need to have some resources in the office. However, we’ve created smaller teams and we've also got a plan of alternating teams so that in case there’s some problem, we will still have a backup option.”

On what precautions Republic is taking, Vikas Khanchandani, Group CEO, Republic Media Network said, “Our team has taken all necessary precautions to safeguard the interest of our employees. The network has made sure there are critical back-up teams and spaces to maintain continuity and safety of the operations/employees. The sanitization of people, equipment, surfaces and carpets has been increased manifolds with every shift and movement of teams across departments. Extra care has been taken for movement of reporters, camera crew and employees in sanitized vehicles. It’s important that the country is safe and it’s critical that our organization is making sure we do everything in our capacity for the safety of everyone including our own teams.”

Moreover, technology is ensuring the smooth-functioning of most news channels. “We had already designed our System tools to allow all of us to operate remotely. This has been useful and handy and we have been able to seamlessly transition,” shared Srivathsan.

On how technology has been playing an important role in their newsroom, Bhan shared, “We are experimenting with technology which has made things much easier. So a lot of our guests are joining us on Skype which is saving our camera crew from having to travel to interact with people. A lot of our anchors are also anchoring from home. So while it's not the same in terms of quality, it is the best we can do in a makeshift situation at this point in time. So far, we have had a fairly smooth run.”

Apart from that, for reporters who have no choice but to go out on the field, organizations are making sure they are taking all the necessary precautions. Speaking about how they are tackling the situation, Anurradha Prasad, Chairperson and MD of BAG Network said, “Ours is a profession, which like the health sector and the armed forces, have to function 24*7. While it is challenging, we have to always be ready. We are ensuring that are employees are maintaining a better level of hygiene, washing their hands and are keeping a safe distance from people. They are wearing marks, carrying sanitizers, and the cars they are travelling by are being disinfected. We are also disinfecting our studios and keeping them locked. We are following every protocol.”

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