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COVID-19 Advice: Communication, Patience, Trust Your Engineer

Ed Bukont on how stations are adjusting (and why managers need to know what a VPN is)

Ed Bukont
Ed Bukont

One in a series about how radio enterprises are responding to the coronavirus-driven emergency, with an emphasis on technology teams and operations.

Edwin Bukont is owner of consulting firm E2 Technical Services.

Radio World: As an experienced engineer and contractor, what are you hearing from organizations about how they are reacting in their technical operations and processes?

Ed Bukont: Because of voice tracking, many stations were already shifting production both in chronology and geographically. The challenge now is to do so remotely, and for an extended period of time.

I have been encouraging my clients for years to build with this thought in mind, “What if you can’t use your studio building for an extended period of time?” Certain products, such as the Comrex Opal, are proving to be the perfect answer to at least getting a voice into the remote production realm.

RW: What kinds of solutions are engineers and stations finding, for programming or remote audio chain problems?

Bukont: The military likes to say, “Damage control first, improvement second.” This is a hard one for some to swallow, but getting it done means improvise, adapt, overcome.

You don’t need a Neumann and you don’t need to say “We can’t broadcast because we don’t have phantom power for the mic.” Let’s not play music while the Titanic is sinking. Solutions are out there, the challenge is, can your station use the solution? Z/IP One, Opal, Access, MaxxKonnect, Marti. Every station is different, even if they share some facilities.

Now that we have the attention of Homeland Security, I expect we may see some help from other telecom services in adapting network endpoints to accommodate broadcast-related traffic such as VPN.

Post 9/11, Katrina, Dodd-Frank and other recent impacts, many stations have already put into place the mechanisms to handle this situation.

Many stations have already put into place the mechanisms to handle this situation.

RW: How has the situation affected your own business and daily life? 

Bukont: I don’t know yet. I did have a small swell of client communications, to be sure that folks could do what they needed. Not too many hiccups. Seen various conferences and training cancelled, but so far, no impact on life except for everything is closed or empty shelves.

But again, adapt, improvise, overcome. The grocer had no onions. I went looking … and found that in the pre-made meals, they had pre-sliced onions.

RW: Any lessons learned in the past week or two, or best practices freshly appreciated?

Bukont: Being prepared is what you do before a crisis, not during the crisis.

What I have found is that folks in stations either are not aware of what capabilities they have, or worse yet, they want everyone to have equal access to all remote functions. That’s not needed nor helpful either.

This isn’t too different than the Y2K proactive measures. Review what you have, understand what you have and regulate the access to those assets. That will tell you where you may need or want to fill in gaps.

I think sales is generally in a more precarious position now than technology. This is radio’s moment to shine as the local resource. I think there is the greater challenge: How do you get the local mayor on, remotely, rather than how do you keep receiving a national news feed?

RW: What else should we know? 

Bukont: My rule is such situations is, “Needs we accommodate. Wants we discuss.”

I have already heard some horror stories about managers demanding access to a VPN, with no idea what that is, or how to use it, but they think its direct access to their office PC. That’s not what a VPN is.

There was a situation today with regard to some tower service tomorrow, for which a radio station would have to reduce power. I suggested to the other party that the FCC is aware their timelines are about to be busted and they should consult their consulting engineer or comms lawyer before confirming any tower work. Problem solved.

Communication, patience, trust your engineer, are what will get you through this.

Radio World wants to hear about how the coronavirus situation is affecting your radio business operations. Email [email protected].