JoyNews, Ghana’s first 24-hour TV news channel last month joined the likes of CNN, BBC and other international media houses that have made it possible for their news anchors to deliver bulletins from home. And Ghanaian television audiences are awed.
The station took initiative as part of efforts to help stop the spread of Covid-19 by limiting the number of staff who turn up for work in offices and studios.
As a result, the anchor of the channel’s primetime bulletin, Israel Laryea who would usually present the news from the studio has since March 30, 2020 been doing so from home.
Israel, who is also a news editor is able to remotely access the office news platform and edit stories and co-produce the news bulletin as he would normally have done, had he been in the station’s Kokomlemle offices.
Though he always signed onto the bulletin saying he’s anchoring from home, a lot of the viewers didn’t quite get it until he shared photos of the setup on his social media handles.
The images showed two light stands, a camera, a desk on which he’s mounted his laptop and an office swivel chair placed in front of a large screen tv with a backdrop which made it look as if he was in the studio.
Israel says the idea to present from home came from Managing Editor, Elvis Kwashie.
“Elvis called me into his office where the Acting General Manager, Emma Morrison and the Head of Technical, Edwin Annan were already waiting,” Israel recollects.
“Once he mentioned it, I didn’t think twice about it and told them, I was game. I only had to discuss it with my wife, Louisa.”
Israel explains the broadcasts have been seamless except on one occasion when internet supply to his home was disrupted because of challenges faced by the ISP.
“That day of all days, the back-up service also disappointed,” he says.
After the initial setup which involved a broadcast technician and a cameraman, the broadcasts have largely been run by Israel and one other colleague who needs to go to his home daily to install a transmitter.
He says though he’s been taken through how to operate the transmission all by himself, he’s been told until the company is able to allocate a dedicated transmitter to his home, the unit would have to be brought in everyday for the broadcast.
This is of great concern to Israel as it almost defeats the purpose of social distancing for which reason the idea was mooted in the first place.
“The compromise was that Daniel, the broadcast technician, would have to be in a nose mask each time he comes over to the house,” Israel says. “And this was even before the wearing of masks became mandatory.”
The set-up, Israel explains has improved over time. He says he had an ironing board as his desk for the very first broadcast on March 30, though it could not be seen on TV.
“We keep getting better”, Israel asserts. “I didn’t have a teleprompter when we started. But I got to rent a portable one from a production company which has helped greatly and which I have to control myself.”
For the viewers though, the news presentations have been simply great, given the circumstances.
Amongst the many who posted comments when Israel shared photos on his verified Facebook page was Abena Kay Yiadom who said, “Wow! I’ve got no words. I’m very impressed Israel”.
Gwendie Dena Welbeck also commented “Ok now I believe”.
Eric Yankson also wrote, “Mr. Israel, today I’m telling you that there’s no any other fan of yours than me. Forget the rest. I just like you to a point I can’t explain myself so I just keep it to myself. God bless you for the wonderful work you’re doing for God and country. Thumbs up”.
Another renowned broadcaster, Anita Erskine, took to her social media handles to applaud Israel for the feat.
Israel’s wife, Louisa, a banker also got a lot of plaudits from the fans after she was acknowledged as the make-up artist. A number of those who posted comments argued that she should be paid for her excellent service.
“The whole family has been cooperative,” Israel stated. “From my wife who does the make-up and also offers some snacks to the team, to my three children who comport themselves so we don’t have a situation where they show up on TV during the news – everyone has been very helpful.”
Israel says he feels good to have been the one chosen to implement the initiative. “I recall a few firsts since I started broadcasting some 21 years ago, including having to anchor the first breaking news on television in Ghana during the May 9 stadium disaster in 2001. That was a tragedy. Being able to anchor from home though, especially during the lockdown, is one we can all be proud of, including the excellent technical team who make it happen.”
Covid-19 has indeed forced many changes on the world and is making the world look a lot different from what it was a few months ago.
Indeed it is a given, our lives will not be the same again and many, including businesses and organisations would have to adapt to the new way of life. One of them, most likely will be the broadcasting industry which is likely to see news broadcasts from home. What Israel Laryea and JoyNews are doing could well be the new normal.