COVID-19 outbreak forces Tennessee station to cancel newscast

By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links

A Chattanooga, Tennessee television station was forced to cancel its Aug. 1, 2022 morning newscast after a COVID-19 outbreak left it “unable” to produce the newscast.

The station, WTVC, which is an ABC and Fox affiliate and owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, tweeted the announcement in the early morning hours of Aug. 1.

It was not immediately clear how many or which staffers were affected by the outbreak, but a morning newscast typically would require at least one anchor and would likely need a forecaster as well, though the anchor could potentially deliver forecasts in the event no one could be found.

In addition, a newscast would typically need at least one producer or other newsroom staffer and one production person to put out a bare-bones product. A full newscast with field reports, live shots and original local content would likely require additional team members.

Along with its announcement, the station tweeted a photo of an empty studio, though it’s not clear when the shot was taken. The photo features what appears to be robotic camera heads on bases that require manual movement.

The number and positioning of the cameras suggest the station could produce a newscast without any production crew being physically in the studio. Many TV stations use broadcast automation technology to reduce the number of production crew needed to produce a newscast and the cameras could potentially be maneuvered by that system or a single operator either in an off-camera area of the studio or the control room.

WTVC mentioned that part of the decision was drive by a desire to protect the health of its employees.

In the same tweet, the station indicated it expected to be able to produce the remainder of the day’s newscasts, a signal that the morning team could have been hit particularly hard by the outbreak.

It is relatively rare for a local TV station to cancel a newscast unexpectedly, though it’s happened before due to technical meltdowns.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local stations set up the ability for anchors and meteorologists to appear on camera from home either using high-quality video feeds or commonly available video conferencing solutions.

The U.S. is currently seeing a spike in cases thanks to a new varient, though, thanks to vaccines, hospitalization and deaths have been reduced significantly.

However, in many parts of the country workers can go maskless indoors, which can increase the spread of the virus. It was not immediately clear what WTVC’s masking policy was for off-camera staffers, but most stations made talent exempt from wearing masks while on air.

Coronavirus vaccines and boosters are highly recommended by multiple public health officials and experts. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have undergone extensive testing and monitoring to ensure their safety. Scientific research has shown the vaccines and boosters to be very safe and highly effective in decreasing the likelihood of contracting the illness and, if one does become sick, symptoms are less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization or death. For more information about COVID-19 and coronavirus, visit the CDC website. You can locate a free vaccination site or clinic near you at Vaccines.gov. As with any medical decision, you should always discuss your options with your doctor.