Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hours of work to make seconds of TV during CFTO weather forecast

Weather Or Not It Is Worth It.

Back at the TV station it is considered Pimping Up the News Broadcast. In an endless stream of accident reports, murder stories, gridlocked traffic reports, the bright spot in the news cycle is the "live-eye" reports. You know the drill. An on-air personality takes a remote crew and visits an event to give a series of good news 2-minute hits during the newscast.
In Toronto, Roger's owned CITY-TV pioneered the "live-eye" remote with its morning crew, anchored by singer and TV personality Jennifer Valentyne. Cross-town rivals, CTV's CFTO have countered with their roving weather reporters - Anwar Knight and Tom Brown - who go on location at events and happenings to wrap good-news stories around their newscast weather reports.
Regardless of which station you watch, the "live-eye" reports are always upbeat and hopefully fun for the viewers. Although the remotes seem light and breezy the stations spend considerable thought and funds into each daily foray into the community. There are satellite trucks, remote cameras, technicians and talent dedicated to visiting everything from the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, to Scotiabank Caribana. Over a year the live-eyers talk to civic leaders, trade show pitchmen, performers, artists, authors and yes, sometimes even clowns in full greasepaint. And, at Christmas they talk to religious leaders.
People like me are often involved in setting up live-eye visits. Television crews depend on outside help that they trust to round up guests to appear in a visually interesting setting and talk for no more than two-minutes about a specific subject. The guests have to be articulate, to-the-point and interesting. They shouldn't stutter, have thick accents or strange facial expressions. They must be willing to get up painfully early and wait for hours to appear on the "live eye" and accept with good grace having their segments moved or dropped. Most importantly the guests and all the location/events support staff (and publicist) must not charge the TV station for their time and costs.
In PR terms it makes sense to help out. Because the live-eye visits are good news skewed there aren't hard questions to answer. The guests that appear live are permitted to explain to viewers why they should be interested in their story. The live-eye is one of the few opportunities in the broadcast cycle for people to show and tell, and 2-minutes is a long long time on TV. Since the live-eye remote returns to the same location four times over the course of a broadcast, your story gets to repeatedly hit on the ever changing viewership which drops in and out of programmes many times over an hour.
On Wednesday December 16th I received an email from weatherman Anwar Knight at CFTO to ask for assistance with the noon "live-eye" on Friday December 19th. It took us a few hours to actually connect by phone, so, whatever help the station's weatherman needed, had to be organized by end-of-day Thursday.
In the lead-up to Christmas CFTO was sending Anwar to places of worship to see how different communities and different religions celebrated the holiday season. On Friday CFTO was to visit a Jamaican Canadian church, however, the Jamaican consulate somehow dropped the ball and there was no church for the station to visit. Did I know of any church that could help out over the noon hour on Friday?
I did. A year ago I had met with Pastor Pat Francis of the Kingdom Covenant Ministries in Mississauga. A special envoy to the United Nations, a charismatic preacher and the leader of a growing church, she hoped to hire me to help with a building project. The church, its private school and offices are currently entrenched in an old warehouse. The warehouse church is big but not big enough for its growing congregation. They currently have 3 services on Sunday and 1,000 people worship at each service.
Pastor Pat wants to build a $30 million church and school near the Mississauga / Toronto border. She figures she will need the help of a PR agency. I quoted but never heard back (even churches do that Toronto thing -- silence means no). I didn't forget Pastor Pat and always thought she would be great on TV.
With calls to the Church Deacon in Trinidad and the help of Andre Newell, a church member and a member of the Scotiabank Caribana marketing team, we were able to open the church up 48 hours after Anwar's call and help created 4 segments of good television.

This is what happened.

Wednesday - 2 calls to Trinidad from the vegetable aisle of Loblaws
Thursday - Pastor Pat agrees to appear on television
- Andre Newell asks Olunike Adeliyi,, an actress who recently appeared in the Flashpoint drama TV series to come to the church on Friday and help with the broadcast (she is a member of the congregation)
- Andre talks to Jamaican restaurant who donate traditional Caribbean Christmas dishes
- Andre asks gospel singer and organist to perform during the broadcast
- Stephen Weir provided CFTO with location map, background on the church, Pastor Pat and some of the Christmas traditions celebrated in the Caribbean.
Friday - Stephen Weir meets the three-man crew at 10.30 at the church. Cables are laid from the remote truck into the alter area of the church.
-Stephen Weir meets with Pastor Pat and members of her church to talk about the broadcast
- The Organist and singer arrive. The organist begins performing background music
- The Church has an A/V department which set up their own camera and lighting. A Christmas tree is decorate and a corner of the church is draped for a food segment
- Andre sets out the food.
- Anwar Knight arrives and meets the crew, Pastor Pat, Tattiawna Jones and members of the church.

At noon the broadcast began. After giving the weather Anwar interviewed Pastor Pat asking her about how Caribbean Canadians mark Christmas. Anwar wanted to stress that Christmas is a time for families to be together. Pastor Pat agreed but reminded viewers the most important thing over the holidays was Our Savour.
The second segment was with Olunike Adeliyi,talking about Christmas. Our gospel singer sang and the cameras saw how the Church was decorated for the holidays
In our third segment Anwar, Pastor Pat and Olunike Adeliyi, sampled Jamaican food. (We did get a plug in for the restaurant the home-made sorrel, black cake and a beef-patty like dish).
The fourth and last segment didn't run too smoothly - we had hoped the children attending the Church's elementary school would appear on camera (they were having an end of the year party in the next room). No model releases - so CTV was concerned about having the young students on air. The school principal didn't like the fact that kids were out of uniform, so, the children segment was scrapped.
In its place Andre and I hustled around and collected wrapped presents and put them under a Christmas tree. Dr. Pat talked about the Church's Toy Drive. It is being done in conjunction with CHUM radio, but, she was asked not say CHUM radio. Even though CTV owns the radio station, CFTO has its own Toy Drive and didn't want to promote someone else's drive!
CFTO was also worried about the copyright of the songs sung by our singer and played by our keyboardist. The solution? She sang a really old song and the organist played music that was copyright free.
By 1 o'clock it was all over. Four live segments were shot giving the church 10 minutes of air time. It took 20 volunteers, a few international phone calls and 8-hours of work by Andre and myself.
Was it worth it? Hard to tell! Do people still watch noon-hour TV? Will they remember the name of the church or its charismatic pastor? Who is going to pay me for a day of my time?
I don't have all the answers. I know viewership numbers are down but I think at least 100,000 people caught at least one of the spots. They might not remember the church's name, but, I believe they will remember Pat and her passion and intensity and profound faith.
For me, I didn't have to come, I could have done everything over the phone - however I do worry so, I made a point of being there. And I accept the fact that I am not getting paid. Cell calls to Trinidad were made on my dime. The drive, the two hours at the church and three hours of prep work were pro-bono.
I did send a note to Matt Garrow CTV's PR guy telling him I'd helped Anwar out. Can't hurt. Would I do it again? Depends on the Weather ... and I don't mind helping out a good cause.

Top: Pastor Dr. Pat Francis
Middle: Anwar Knight with a member of the congregation
Bottom: The broadcast in session

Pat Francis - Biography

Dr. Pat Francis through her local and international ministries has reached millions of people with the message and mission of hope.
Pat believes that "knowledge is power" and through her dynamic teaching seminars and weekly television program "Good News with Pat Francis" she empowers millions of people with wisdom and practical strategies to reach their full potential with the help of faith in God. She believes that education is the door to freedom and provides the foundation for a prosperous future. Pat Francis and her team have developed many schools from kindergarten to College and many associated programs to provide academic, social, and spiritual enhancement for children and young people. Over one hundred scholarships have been awarded to students to aid them in achieving their goals.
Pat's latest project "KC Collegiate" is an alternative high school with a customized program for high school dropouts providing a solution for the thousands of young people who are frustrated with the traditional public school program, with learning challenges and greatly at risk. Her Restorative Justice and Rehabilitation Program for youth were recently featured on "CFTO TV" referring to Dr. Pat Francis as a person that is "saving lives and stopping the cycle of crime in young people".
In 2004, Dr. Francis was awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the United States Senate for her work in the faith community and her efforts to rescue at risk youths. She was also awarded recognition in "The International Who's who" because of her passionate commitment to helping children at risk and her positive influence in the local community.
Through her international charity "Compassion For The Nations" Pat has supported orphanages, pastors, and annually takes teams to third world countries and the Caribbean for medical missions, develop health care centres and teach at conferences throughout North America, The Caribbean, India, Africa, Peru, China and other nations.
As a Business Person, Dr. Pat has developed several businesses. Additionally, she has engaged the services of the business owners to teach people on successful business strategies and has helped hundreds to purchase their own homes or start businesses.
Dr. Pat is a graduate of the University of the West Indies in the medical field of Radiography. She is also a Certified Psychotherapist and holds two Masters degrees and a Doctorate from Christian Life School of Theology, Columbus, GA. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling and is the founder and President several charities.
She is an author, pastor, humanitarian and international conference speaker.


Kingdom Covenant Ministries
20-1224 Dundas St. E.
Mississauga, ON
TL: 905.566.1084