Yesterday, it was announced that Time Magazine had awarded its person of the year award to “the Guardians” – journalists around the world who risk their lives to bring us the news each day.  Most broadcasters don’t think of their on-air personnel as facing the same risks as journalists in war zones or facing imprisonment

A topic not much discussed among broadcasters, but one that should be paramount in the future planning of all broadcast companies, is insuring the security of their stations and the safety of their employees.  This is an issue on which all broadcasters should be focusing.  Last month, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association for the second time featured a panel at one of its conventions dealing with this topic.  While many might think that security issues won’t arise at their stations, in fact it can be an issue at any station in any market.  Listening to the stories told by the participants on these panels, and in later discussions with audience members at the two WBA conferences where the panel has now been featured, and judging from news reports, the topic is clearly one that all broadcasters should be considering.  Video of the panel held last month is available here.

While the panel was premised on protecting journalists who often are the highest profile “faces” of a TV station, from the discussion it was clear that the need for security planning is one that applies not just to TV stations with news operations, but even to radio stations and other media outlets that can, for one reason or another, be targeted by someone with a grudge against the outlet or one of its personalities.  We have seen high profile incidents like the shooting of the Roanoke TV journalists or the employees of an Annapolis newspaper, and we have seen just in the last few weeks pipe bombs sent to news organizations and threats against cable TV hosts.  But, as discussed at the WBA panel, there have been many less publicized incidents.  Two of the panelists discussed their experiences, one a shooting at a small community-run radio station and the second an intruder making threats and smashing station property in broad daylight at a small market TV station.  These incidents, beyond simply raising questions of employee safety, raise both practical and legal issues for all broadcasters.
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