PCN's weekly Coronavirus program is currently on hiatus. Special programs and updates will be added as necessary.
For the latest updates on the Coronavirus in PA, please visit the Department of Health by clicking here.
PCN Adapts to Continue Bringing Pennsylvanians Vital Information and Entertainment
Camp Hill, PA [April 30, 2020] - March 16 began as a typical Monday for employees at PCN, the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Staff at the statewide television network began to arrive around 7 a.m. to prepare for the first show of the day, This Week: PA, which focuses on upcoming activity in the state House and Senate. In a last-minute development, Producers learned that a scheduled guest was quarantined due to possible COVID-19 exposure and would need to appear remotely. Technical accommodations were made via Skype. Still, it appeared to be an average morning.
Later that day, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the enactment of statewide efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
From that moment on, our direction was clear: PCN’s mission to provide vital information to the citizens of Pennsylvania has never been more important. As the pandemic developed, our strategy has been to keep the staff safe, and continue providing critical information to viewers.
PCN’s Programming department immediately began re-working the on-air schedule, to determine what content is most important to the viewers. Within 24 hours of the Governor’s announcement, we developed and began airing Coronavirus Impact, an interview program highlighting various sectors of Pennsylvania affected by the pandemic.
A primary concern was how to operate the network with minimal on-site crew. PCN’s Engineering Department began the process of winding down building-based operations and pivoting toward a remote, work-from-home scenario. Solutions were developed to provide for remote access to the systems that keep us on the air, including editing, master control, and program playback.
With Pennsylvanians being asked to stay home, PCN’s schedule is aimed at striking a balance between our primary mission of keeping the public informed and providing diversion programming to help viewers forget about the doom and gloom that dominates the news. In contrast to the new Coronavirus Impact show that airs on weekdays, and the daily live briefings from the Governor and the state Health Department, PCN’s schedule also includes marathons of viewer favorites, such as the Pennsylvania Farm Show, Gettysburg Battlewalks, and PCN Tours.
Our Marketing staff was the first to start working remotely. Efforts centered on using social media to inform viewers of the new programs and event coverage. Initial struggles involved adapting their normal heavy workload to home WIFI networks. As the staff developed routines for their “new normal,” teleconferencing became an essential means to communicate.
Hosts and interview guests were the next to make the transition from conducting shows in PCN’s studios to meeting on a virtual platform. Typically, this is accomplished with a team of PCN staff on-site: Operations and Engineering handle technical aspects, Producers research and coordinate interviews, and Marketing promotes the programs. When this all started in March, PCN’s on-air hosts found themselves dealing with new technology, along with the challenge of hosting programs at home -- often with pets and family sharing their workspace.
Since early April, PCN has been operating with only one person in the building at a time, that being the Operations technician. This was done to ensure that we could still provide viewers with live updates from the Governor and Secretary of Health, and debates in the House and Senate, while keeping our staff safe.
Operations staff, working from home, is assigned four-hour virtual Master Control shifts, where they maintain the on-air signal. When not running the station from home, they are responsible for editing projects, program preparation, and training assignments.
The Engineers began working from home, with one engineer available at all times to enter the building if necessary. The department maintains the ability to monitor the various methods of transmission, including PCN Select streaming, fiber, satellite, and the network signal to cable systems throughout Pennsylvania.
PCN’s team of videographers, during normal times, spends most of their days covering events across the commonwealth. As stay-at-home policies were put in place, sports, businesses for PCN Tours, numerous conferences, Congressional debates, and other public policy events were cancelled. Some events that would have typically been covered by PCN cameras have been converted into webinars that PCN remotely logs and complements with graphics.
Videographers, and the staff at our Philadelphia and Pittsburgh bureaus, now work out of their homes, using laptops and hard drives. From these home offices, they continue communications with various agencies and institutions about press conferences, streaming events, and other COVID-19 related news. Some are also using this time to study for the FAA Part 107 Drone test.
Systems are in place to allow videographers and Bureau Chiefs to remotely access footage and editing computers based in PCN’s Camp Hill headquarters. Staff has been able to catch up on editing previously-recorded projects that add color to our programming, such as Keystone Tombstones and State Park Postcards. Several museums shared content with PCN for viewers who are unable to see their exhibits in person.
Social distancing has also led to a change in the way PCN produces proprietary, feature programming. The perennial favorite, PCN Tours has been adapted so PCN’s field producers can coach factory employees to record the video themselves, using cell phones. This has allowed for new episodes that show how Pennsylvania distilleries are making hand sanitizers, and small sewing shops are creating face masks. Field producers edit these videos, allowing the manufacturers’ employees to become their own videographers.
One particular initiative that Marketing has emphasized is PCN’s Civics 101 website. During a time when schools are closed, the free Civics 101 educational resources have become a valuable asset to teachers and students alike. The website includes tutorials such as How a Bill Becomes a Law, downloadable tools, and an interactive video game.
Throughout the pandemic, PCN’s two-fold mission of protecting staff and informing viewers has remained constant. The network continues to keep viewers informed about the state government’s response and varying viewpoints on how to best address the effects of COVID-19.
When the Coronavirus eventually fades, many of issues will remain: healthcare facility preparedness, the state’s economy, and access to rural broadband, among others. Whatever happens, PCN will continue to keep viewers informed as we as a Commonwealth recover.
For more information on PCN, please visit pcntv.com