Even before former US President Donald Trump popularised the term ‘fake news’, media companies were preoccupied with upgrading and reformatting their programming to suit advances in technology and changes in public expectations.
Genuine stories and highly skilled media people deserve the spotlight in a world where fake news gets undeserved mileage. Even before tackling challenges to truth, the battle to get timely and verified information to the public starts with a technically adept team being flexible and reactive enough to ensure that the show can go on, regardless.
CNN Philippines is a Southeast Asian franchise of the US-based CNN news network. It began operations in 2015 when the international cable news company signed a brand licensing agreement with a local network, Nine Media.
Jane C. Santos, Assistant Vice-President for Technical Services at CNN Philippines, sees to it that all the technical requirements of the network are ready to bring out the best daily programming. If she or her team slip up, they risk the horror of ‘dead air’, a broadcast failure when programming goes offline.
Santos’ oversight task is critical. Her role entails running troubleshooting to prevent anything dreadful happening, and to fix it when it does. Alertness, patience, and a sharp instinct must come together to tackle any unforeseen technical difficulties.
To sum up her role, she says: “I work with teams who handle the system and technical side of the company, working with different departments to deliver the best service for those who watch CNN Philippines.”
CNN’s international operations share their content with CNN Philippines (and in return use the Asian franchise’s locally produced news, current affairs, and lifestyle programmes). Counterparts from CNN US also train local crew members at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
COS Asia: What does your job entail on a day-to-day basis?
Santos: My day starts with very early meetings, catching up with heads of the departments under me to check what issues need to be dealt with to keep office operations in tip-top shape. During the day, I could also be meeting with suppliers of products we may need at work, or I could be meeting with our commercial and marketing team for upcoming on-ground events.
Once in a while, I meet with CNN International teams to touch base on the technology and workflow adaptable to the local newsroom.
COS Asia: What technical training does your staff undergo?
Santos: I work with eight departments dealing with issues from studio engineering to media management, broadcast IT, satellite news gathering, the television operating centre, and field production. The training staff receive is specific to the systems and equipment that people working in the newsroom and elsewhere need to ensure the workflow remains smooth and fluid.
Some of my teams have had the opportunity to train abroad and get exposure by attending international broadcaster conventions.
COS Asia: What issues and concerns face a news organisation in the Philippines?
Santos: We fight fake news every day. The inaccuracies and sensationalism that unreliable news sources present are something we work to overcome, as fake news is rampant across all platforms.
There are limits when it comes to connectivity. We can’t innovate as fast as we want to because sometimes the resources are absent. We are a resourceful team, however, and these concerns have not been able to stop us.
COS Asia: What have you done to address this connectivity challenge?
Santos: When connectivity is a challenge, or the infrastructure is not there to enable live transmission using our portable field transmission units, we use our satellite news gathering setup. It requires more workers and resources, but it is worth it because it gets the job done.