THE PRICE POINT

The Price Point | A Return In Sight For Stations?

Television stations should take a cue from the NAB, whose commitment to holding an in-person conference in October offers a light at the end of COVID’s long, dark tunnel.

Talk to pretty much anyone in the TV business these days and you will hear how tired they are of video conferencing.

When COVID-19 first hit, engineering and IT departments worked miracles, allowing the vast majority of employees to do their jobs remotely. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and even our old friend Skype became lifesavers.

The fact stations have been able to function so well with so few people actually in the buildings is a testament to the resilience of an industry that has always been known for its ability to mobilize during emergencies. But emergencies are one thing, multi-month efforts, soon to be a year, are another.

Television stations thrive on shared energy. This is true of every department — sales, news, creative services, even engineering. Everyone who has worked at a major station knows the feeling of electricity that can go through a building after a big win. It’s not like working at a life insurance company, where success comes down to a spreadsheet. Ours is truly a people business.

Talk to any general manager of most any group and they will tell you how proud they are of the way their people have responded. Talk with them long enough and you will begin to hear how tired they are, how much they miss being in the same room with their department heads and staff members. Talk to news directors and you will hear the same thing. Everyone wants this to be over.

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Of course, it can’t be over until companies believe their people can return to a safe workplace, but the not knowing, the lack of a target date, makes things that much harder.

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All of this is why I was excited to see NAB’s announcement that they plan to have an in-person convention later this year. This is exactly the kind of leadership our industry needs, and the timing could not be better. If it will be safe to go to the NAB convention, surely it will be safe to go to work.

The important thing about NAB’s announcement is that it commits to a specific time-frame — the month of October. If events should prevent the convention from happening, then so be it, but in the meantime an actual date offers a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Let’s hope television station owners across the country follow NAB’s example and set target dates to return to full station staffing. The ability to work remotely is a valuable tool that will be part of the future, but television stations are very small organizations. They function best with everyone in the same building.

A commitment to normalcy, even if it is far off and tentative, will energize tired employees. They will be given hope, and hope is a precious commodity that is needed right now.

Hank Price is a media consultant and leadership coach. He is the author of Leading Local Television, a guide to leadership for television general managers, as well as those who aspire to top leadership. Price spent 30 years managing TV stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett, including WBBM Chicago and KARE Minneapolis, as well as three other stations. Earlier, he was a consultant for Frank N. Magid Associates. Price also served as senior director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center and is currently director of leadership development for the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss. He is the author of two other books.


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