Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mini Doughnuts and Cotton Candy

Several years ago while I was still a technical Supervisor, I was sitting in my office minding my own business, when I am summoned by our news director of the day, Bob. Bob says to me, "We are going to take the show on the road."
You see he wants to take our News Program and relocate it to the annual Fair in Southern BC, the Pacific National Exhibition. I guess he saw the value of having some sort of presence at an event that see's like a million people come through the gates.
The problem for me was the opening day of the fair was less that a week away and there was little (read NO ) budget for this. His mind movie involved interactive sets, editing shooting and doing a half hour Daily news show all while a noisy parade passed by. Oh god, I thought I would have a stroke. The long and the short of it was, we did the best we could with what we had to work with and so began our 8 year relationship with the fair-goers of the PNE.

In 2002 our general manager at that time also understood the value of our presence at the Fair. He was a man of action and enabled us to finally put together an attraction that continues to this day. We now do all of our suppertime news shows from the Fair grounds. Both weekday and weekend. Our promotions department have a tent set up next to our stage and have a photo booth where viewers can have a photo of themselves with their favorite TV show.
The "barkers" -the folks who take the mic and encourage passers by to stop in and check out the CTV Broadcast Center, give away prizes and entertain folks in the line waiting for pictures.
It sure has grown from our meager little half hour from our Microwave truck in 1998.
One of the big draws for people is a free draw that we have. We give away a trip for two every evening aboard our News Gathering helicopter. The flight leaves from the nearby Race Track. In past years I have been on flight duty during the fair and flew with many prize winners. I especially enjoyed having folks aboard that have never experienced helicopter flight. We make sure that each guest aboard recieves a photo of themselves during the flight. The smiles and excietment in the voices of our guest tell it all. Its' the best ride at the PNE and it's free. I never get tired of seeing guests leave happy.
Back at the main stage of the show, the casts begin with an off air pre game show, explaining to the people gathered as they enjoy their mini doughnuts or cotton candy, how a broadcast is put together. They have been hosted by Reporters and Anchors. They too give away some hats and T-shirts and get the masses ready for news time. They introduce the crew on the set and demonstrate how a promter works, usually asking someone from the audience to come up and give it a try. They introduce Jimmy the Floor Director and Jimmy counts down into the show and like magic we are on the air. The audience assembled can watch the cast on the big screen.

Our Weather and Sports team are usually located at some other place in the park. It's different everyday. The object of course is to give the viewer the sense that they too are at the park eventhough they might be watching in their own living room. The production team for those segments are usuall a camera op , a truck op a producer and audio A2. Back at the broadcast center, there are 4 camera ops, floor director, IT, audio A-2, swithcer, engineer, lighting tech, Audio Tech, ENG/troubleshooter , and ENG editor. That doesn't mention the staff back at the control room back at our studios downtown. And don't forget the team of editors and ENG shooters/ Truck ops and reporters that have spent the day collecting the stories that make the show. Then there are the show producers, directors, audio, PA's, tech coords, feed and play techs, and the list goes on. So you see how labour intensive a news broadcast is.

After the show, our anchors from both shows are available for questions and a photo with the anchor team. We take polaroids and give them a frame and folks take a little piece of the experience back home with them.
It connects us with the public and the public comes away with a better understanding of just what makes a Broadcast possible. All while enjoying a bit of popcorn and perhaps an ice cream.

Yes Bob, you were right, it has value.

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