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U.S. Radio Operations Adjust to Coronavirus

Windscreens, audio codecs in demand as industry goes remote

coronavirus mask
Getty Images/Yaroslav Mikheev

Paper towels and fresh bread are not the only things in demand right now. Add microphone windscreens and remote codecs to the list, at least for U.S. radio stations dealing with the new reality of COVID-19 prevention.

Radio groups are setting up teleworking arrangements, canceling events and turning away prizewinners from their lobbies.

Demand has increased for equipment that supports remote audio operation, according to companies that make codecs including Comrex and Tieline. Similarly, equipment distributor SCMS reports, “We have shipped tons of windscreens but also many portable studio kits to major groups using the Rode Rodecaster,” according to President Bob Cauthen. “I think they are all preparing for the worst but hoping for the best!”

Radio World is gathering comments from a sampling of radio broadcasters and vendors to ask about the impact on operations. We welcome your own news at [email protected].

Organizations have been posting updates about their continuity plans. Michael Beach, vice president of NPR Distribution, posted late last week about operation of the Public Radio Satellite System. He said PRSS will continue operations uninterrupted. “It’s our mandate to serve you so you can serve your communities, who need you more than ever,” Beach wrote to radio affiliates. That includes its Network Operations Center in Washington and its Help Desk.

“However, to reduce potential exposures to the virus, NPR is encouraging telework for employees who are in non-essential on-site roles,” he wrote. “As a result, much of the Distribution staff will be working remotely today through the end of March.” Some NPR Distribution staff were working remotely, others continue to be on in Washington. Staff are not to travel for business, events or appearances.

Beasley Media Group issued an announcement quoting Chief Executive Officer Caroline Beasley saying “The challenges we face are extraordinary, but the moment is not unique.” Most Beasley full-time employees are being asked to telework. “While some full-time employees will be needed in the office, they will be expected to follow CDC guidelines in an effort to maintain a safe and clean work environment.” Beasley instituted a “no work-related travel” policy and won’t allow listeners to pick up contest prize awards.

Adams Radio Group on Friday mandated that all personnel who can work from home do so immediately. Adams Radio CEO Ron Stone said, “Sales, programming, administrators and engineers will all be following this guidance as implemented by local management. … Further, we have also expanded restrictions on visitors to our buildings. We will be utilizing electronic means for all meetings with clients. Distribution of prizes, etc. to winners of contests will be discontinued until person-to-person interaction is safe again.”

The Alabama Broadcasters Association has delayed its schedule of Alternative Broadcast Inspections, or ABIPs. “As soon as conditions improved you will be contacted about a new inspection date.” The Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers cancelled its planned monthly meeting in Arlington, Va., that had been planned for this Friday.

Of course, many in the radio tech community are commenting via social media about the impact.

“Seeing a lot of broadcast organizations shutting down because of ‘the Fear,’” one posted to the Broadcasting group on Facebook. “Who’s running these facilities while everyone else is on Corona-cation? Engineers, that’s who. The guys you want to cut, the guys who you call when you are off the air.” Another replied, “And also the people setting up all those Zoom, Slack, VPN etc. accounts.”

A third wrote, “Should further community quarantine come into play, my GM has already told me I would be living at the studios. … An air mattress/sleeping bag in the quiet mechanical room sounds like a vacation at this point.”