Check out the following tips so, that like Mr Visage, you don’t touch someone’s studio!

As a broadcaster, I’m sure you’ve heard that sharing headphones is more of a bacterial breading ground than swapping underwear with the same colleagues. I’m not sure of the scientific truth but have always been more comfortable with my own headphones than a communal set.

Studio hygiene is a consideration for many organisations as the heart and soul of on-air operations. Often these facilities operate 24hrs a day and are lunchboxes, make-up studios, bedrooms and broadcast studios. It’s fair to assume they are also germ magnets. Fresh air is a luxury and pre COVID-19, sanitising wipes were for baby bags and shopping trolleys.

COVID-19 is a national disaster in South Africa. It is in times like these that radio and TV can deliver fast, factual and accurate news to South Africans. In most instances broadcasters realise they have an obligation to inform the public of news and information around the pandemic.

It is under these circumstances that many radio people are staying behind the microphone and spreading the news so many are seeking to receive. Martin Sims from Blue Cow – Solutions for Media agrees that radio can really make a difference in times like these. He believes it is an opportunity for radio to shine and feels that radio’s ability to quickly spread correct information and provide companionship to a rightly concerned listenership will make a huge difference to the efforts in tackling this outbreak.

As a studio builder, designer, integrator and turn-key maintenance provider, Sims has been asked how to best approach studio safety in light of COVID-19. After some considered reading his advice and tips are as follows:

  • Have all broadcast staff and members of the public wash or sanitise their hands before entering and leaving  the studio. 20 seconds of hand washing is the rule;
  • No shaking hands, kissing or hugging with co-workers or guests. Use elbow to elbow or foot to foot for greeting;
  • Keep a distance of at least 1 meter to other people in the studio. Consider changing on-air teams if this isn’t possible;
  • While working in studio (and in general) do not touch your face;
  • Do not share headphones. Headphones are in touch with your face and hands and can so spread the virus. Use your own pair of headphones or go without. Remove “shared” headphones from the studio;
  • Do not touch the windshields on the studio microphones. If your station has a windshield for each presenter only touch your own windshield and wash your hands before and after doing so;
  • If you can use latex surgical gloves when on-air this would enhance protection, but does not take away the need to wash hands;
  • Don’t cough or sneeze in the studio, if unavoidable, sneeze or cough into a tissue or sleeve;
  • Most COVID-19 workplace guidance literature says that high-contact surfaces and electronic items should be disinfected daily. This is a good place to start but with multiple users in a radio studio we should do more. Mixers, mice, keyboards, headphones etc are touched all the time and can hold and hence spread the virus;
  • You cannot disinfect a dirty surface. The germs can hide in the dirt. If equipment is dirty, first wipe it down with soap and water. Do not pour or spray any cleaner on studio equipment. A cloth that is damp but not wet is suitable;
  • If the equipment is clean, you can then disinfect. Alcoholic wipes (wet wipes) get the most recommendations. An alcohol-based disinfectant on a cloth would also work. Again, use something damp but not wet on equipment and touch screens. Do not spray disinfectant on equipment!
  • The guidelines recommend using one wipe per surface to prevent any contamination from one surface to another. That means it is the ideal to use one wipe for the mixer, another for the mouse, another for the keyboard and so on.

Some general recommendations:

  • Stop in studio interviews and performances – use the telephone/Skype/Whatsapp/Cleanfeed, instead;
  • Keep non-essential personnel out of the studio to reduce the number of people in the room at any time;
  • Postpone outside broadcasts, activations and studio tours;
  • Postpone non-essential training workshops and staff meetings;
  • Consider automating and voice tracking some programming to reduce the need for staff to travel;
  • Check that relevant staff have the necessary usernames and passwords for remote control of important systems;
  • If you can’t do remote control yet, set it up now!
  • Communicate all the prevention efforts the station is taking to your listeners on-air and through your socials – this models good behaviour for your listeners.

Importantly, if you are feeling sick, think you maybe feeling sick or display any symptoms, do not go to work, remain in self-isolation and consult a trained professional.

Inside Radio also wrote a great piece tips for safer radio, take as read.

The World Health Organisation Guidelines for safe workplaces published a useful document, access it here.

As a final word, when in doubt ask, do some research and don’t place yourself or anyone in your team at unnecessary risk. This is a good time to embrace technology to the benefit of people.

If you’d like to contribute to the list, send a pack of sanitiser or mail me.