Franklin TV Adapts, Improves during Pandemic
Franklin Town Counselors conduct a live meeting last June on Franklin High School football field. Franklin TV announcers provided live coverage.
By J.D. O’Gara
We can’t go to ball games. We can’t go to meetings. We can’t be places in person. A side effect of a pandemic, the need to use technology to see and hear each other has become paramount, and for the town of Franklin, that means putting the resource that is Franklin TV to work.
“It’s about connectedness,” says Pete Fasciano,Executive Director, Franklin.TV & wfpr.fm.
It’s about getting information out on the virus, information out on where things are at the local level. Town business must go on.”
Franklin TV needed to keep people connected during Covid-19. Doing that with everything shuttered meant adapting, fast.
“We scrambled early on to add new technical capabilities across the facility. That meant controlling everything remotely, and enhancing our ability to be able to touch any desktop in the facility,” says Fasciano. The studio had to scale up to equip all of the three dozen desktop computers the facility uses with its software app, Anydesk, and add more computers in different places in the organization. .
No use of the studio meant making sure everyone also had the ability to work remotely, from the staff of Fasciano, three full-time production personnel, an engineering manager and several freelancers, to town authorities at Franklin Town Chambers. Announcers were given access to work remotely for the sports cast, and the radio station needed to provide them with that kind of access as well as audio equipment. The station shipped that audio equipment directly to people recording their shows.
“Zoom has become the digital transport means for most of our live programming,” says Fasciano. “Meetings are now more interactive, enabling town officials, committee members, experts, presenters and residents to communicate freely in real-time.”
That looks like weekly discussions with Jamie Hellen and other officials, working with Steve Sherlock of Franklin Matters, says Fasciano, adding, “We have become quite active covering Franklin high school’s varsity sports as live events via Zoom. This became a major priority since parents could no longer attend events to watch their kids play. Our announcers also work remotely from their homes, watching and commenting on the games via Zoom. To facilitate multi-camera sports coverage, we designed and constructed three video ‘flypacks’ - basically a ready-to-air TV control room in a fold-up, forty pound box. Unfold box. Connect cameras. Zoom.”
This method has allowed Franklin TV to support other organizations as well, including the Franklin Senior Center, the Recreation Department, the Black Box, and local boy scouts, to provide streaming coverage where a live audience can’t attend.
“Our staff is actually working remotely on shoots, shooting people on location out in the open,” says Fasciano. Crews go out to meet the people they’re filming on location in town.
Franklin TV’s radio station has almost doubled its programming since the pandemic began.
“We distributed podcast microphone kits to our radio volunteers to connect them all together and to the radio station via Zoom,” says Fasciano. “Steve Sherlock, Jim Derick, Frank Falvey, Jay Horrigan, Anne Bergen, Pandora Carlucci, Michael Walker-Jones, and Jeff Roy, have all been engaged in enhancing our community connectedness in a time of increased social isolation through their ongoing radio programs and audio podcasts. People can work out of their living rooms and dens and offices at home. We just needed to provide them with the equipment to connect.”
Fasciano sees “the sweeping technical changes that we have made” as “a permanent part of our newer, better normal. Failure is not an option.”
Right now, the studio continues to remain closed, and Fasciano says opening continues to be “a moving target,” dependent upon the progress with vaccines.
All past programming is available in the archives at the Franklin TV website, www.franklin.tv.