Gippsland FM response to COVID-19
In these unprecedented times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Gippsland FM has taken a number of steps in response to ensure the health and safety our members, volunteers, visitors and staff – which remains our paramount priority.
- As infection numbers around Victoria continue to fall, Gippsland FM have continued the transition towards a ‘covid-normal’.
- With easing of lockdown restrictions across regional Victoria, the station transitioned to allowing a maximum of 2 presenters who weren’t in the same household to enter our broadcast studios.
- Further easing of restrictions in both Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria saw the Gippsland FM board transition to allowing up to 3 presenters into the broadcast studios.
- Gippsland FM is compliant with current density limits which means we are pleased to be able to allow up to 3 presenters in our broadcast studios with ample space for everyone to comply with 1.5 Metre social distancing guidelines.
- The wearing of masks upon entry to the station (unless a medical or legal exemption applies) is still currently mandatory in line with Victorian Government guideline throughout the studio complex however due to the nature of broadcasting, station presenters have been advised that wearing masks whilst broadcasting is NOT mandatory under these guidelines for broadcasters but presenters are free to wear masks in studio if they wish.
- All station presenters have been provided with their own personal microphone ‘sock’ to place over studio microphones to mitigate the risk of any kind of viral transmission. Additionally presenters are required to use their own headphones when broadcasting.
- At the present time, unless a technical or emergency issue arises, presenters are NOT permitted to follow one another in the same studio – Gippsland FM broadcasts with 2 broadcast studios and to comply with social distancing requirements programs following one another must be facilitated between studios to ensure presenters don’t follow from each other in the same studio – allowing ample time for cleaning and sanitising the studios between programs.
- As a result, due to the requirement of 2 operational broadcast studios, presenters have not been able to attend the station to pre record shows or interviews.
- The station is currently undertaking operational procedures to eventually allow presenters to return to pre recording with the addition of new audio technology.
- On the return of live programming following the initial state lockdown, a condition of return was for all presenters to comply with a scheduled cleaning regime before and after use of studios – this requirement remains in place and Gippsland FM Staff and Volunteers are adhering to these requirements in a positive manner.
- Access to the Gippsland FM studio complex remains explicitly limited to station broadcasting members/volunteers, staff, and limited other personnel if authorised.
- Gippsland FM remains committed to the health and safety of all staff, members and visitors and the processes currently in place remain to uphold this strong commitment.
- Following the announcement of Stage three restrictions in Regional Victoria beginning Wednesday 5th August 2020, additional planning to manage Gippsland FM Personnel through the lockdown was needed.
- An emergency board meeting to discuss options was held.
- The Gippsland FM board voted that throughout the reinstatement of stage three restrictions, the station would NOT move to automated music this time around.
- It was deemed that radio, including community radio is in fact an essential service being that we are an official emergency broadcaster in line with Emergency Management Victoria.
- Presenters were notified of this decision and informed they can remain broadcasting their program however if they felt uncomfortable alternative arrangements would be made to fill their program time slot.
- Essential Worker permits were issued to all staff and presenters to ensure that if they were questioned by authorities, the process would be streamlined and clear, however presenters were advised they MUST follow any directions given by authorised personnel (ie. Police, Government Officials, ADF officials, etc).
- The Gippsland FM board of directors and relevant personnel are regularly keeping up to date with health advice and information and factoring this information into any decisions made.
- Above all, the health, safety and wellbeing of our presenters and staff is the number one priority.
- Deep cleaning procedures are in place for every presenter and staff member to follow which involves cleaning all surfaces and equipment in our studios before and after shows, regular cleaning of office spaces and desks.
- In addition, the Gippsland FM studios are only available for live broadcasting and NOT pre recording any shows
- As the pandemic began to worsen, Gippsland FM board of Directors called an emergency meeting.
- An emergency board meeting was held on Tuesday 17th March 2020
- Unanimous decision was made to suspend all live broadcasting for the health and safety of members as of midnight Thursday 19th March 2020.
- The decision to allow programming to continue until midnight March 19th allowed the board of directors to notify Gippsland FM presenters of the decision made, and for the technical team to notify our listener base via announcements on air, and via social media channels.
- News, weather & sponsorship announcements (where practicable) would continue.
- Vic Emergency broadcast messages would still go to air as required
- At the time of the decision being made to suspend live broadcasting, there were only 423 active cases within Australia – this had increased to 7,320 by June 15th as live programming resumed
- Decision made that production staff along with board directors would have authorised access to Gippsland FM studio complex – all other members would no longer be able to access the studios.
- Gippsland FM program director met with production and technical team during the evening of Wednesday March 18th
- Due to the nature of the pandemic and implications as a situation not experienced in this way a large amount of planning went into transitioning to automation.
- Program director, production and technical team worked throughout the evening of March 18th to ensure a smooth transition from midnight.
- Music automation set in line with the current Gippsland FM program schedule.
- Sponsorship announcements and Community Service Announcements provided by the Australian Government added into rotation to keep the community informed.
- LEBA Ethnic media agency provide relevant information in languages other than English so Gippsland FM can broadcast to our multi-cultural communities in their preferred languages in line with ethnic programs provided by Gippsland FM.
- Gippsland FM resumed live programming on Monday 8th June with the breakfast show only, Monday to Friday Country Crew from the following week & all other programs from June 22nd.
- Production team tasked with ensuring all relevant content is broadcast and that Gippsland FM remain on air.
- Recording of weather reports daily
- Ensuring scheduling of sponsorship announcements is correct.
- Ensure music automation is scheduled correctly
- Broadcast any relevant Vic Emergency messages as required
- Giving presenters the opportunity where they have the means (recording equipment), to pre-record programs from home to go to air.
- Presenter training has been conducted online via Zoom
- Gippsland FM board meetings have been conducted via Zoom
In addition to many different tasks to keep Gippsland on air, the technical team have taken the opportunity to undertake some important maintenance tasks both in our studios and at our transmitter site. Regular maintenance is vital to extend the longevity of broadcast equipment and this situation has given an opportunity to undertake maintenance on a deeper cleaning level, including upgrading of vital Gippsland FM equipment.
Though the Gippsland FM studio facilities have been restricted to Gippsland FM board directors, essential production and technical personnel, and limited administration staff, Gippsland FM is committed to ensuring a safe workplace with safe work practices, including regularly disinfecting surfaces and equipment, practicing social distancing, regularly washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water (additionally also using hand sanitiser upon entry and exit to station complex).
Gippsland FM encourages that everyone comply with government advice and direction about restrictions in place due to the pandemic situation.