The CBA recognises the critical role of broadcasters in a national or regional crisis. Or a global one – as today the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak to be a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. Public radio and TV stations everywhere are in a unique position to disseminate vital information, but they also have a chance to build audience trust as citizens seek reliable information to assist in their coping and survival.
We are in continuous contact with our members in West Africa where the outbreak is focused, and have issued an 8-page guide for them and other broadcasters that are potentially affected. It is designed to help broadcasters to develop a clear strategy to ensure that they are able to provide continuous and effective operations during the outbreak, which has so far resulted in at least 1,779 cases and 961 deaths.
The practical guidance draws upon CBA’s experience in providing specialised training for broadcasting during emergencies, such as pandemics, and among other things we emphasise the importance of accurate information, which includes rigorously vetting interviewees and ensuring information is locally relevant (eg bleach might be known by a brand name, which will vary between countries). We also stress the need to identify and build relationships with health and aid organisations working in country to share accurate information.
All broadcast operations depend on their staff, who will be affected in one way or another by the disease outbreak. Measures should be taken to ensure their health and safety, their contact details should be kept up-to-date and sensible rotas drawn up to avoid staff becoming overexhausted.
The outbreak directly affects Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and increasingly Nigeria – all countries have declared states of emergency. Meanwhile two Ebola patients are being treated in the US, and a Spanish priest with the the disease has been airlifted from Liberia to Madrid. A man who was being tested for Ebola in Saudi Arabia after arriving from Sierra Leone this week has died.
Image: the Guinea Red Cross Society raising awareness in the capital, Conakry