A positive COVID test by a café Barista has exposed an embarrassing lack of staff protection at Channel 10’s biggest newsroom.
As the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney intensifies with infections remaining above 1200 per day, broadcasters across the city have moved to implement strict rapid testing protocols for all essential workers. That is except Channel 10.
TV Blackbox can reveal the 10 Network has so far failed to implement a rapid COVID testing protocol for essential employees working inside its Sydney studio facility and has instead been advising staff that if they have symptoms, they should attend a public testing service.
TV Blackbox has heard from multiple employees working within the Sydney facility who were concerned by the lack of COVID-19 testing being supplied to staff.
The lack of testing at 10 is in stark contrast to the strict protocols put in place by rival broadcasters who have implemented numerous policies to provide a safe work environment and ensure daily news services can continue to be broadcast unaffected by staff shortages.
Since the arrival of COVID-19 early last year, the biggest fear held by newsroom directors across the country has been that exposure to the virus could cause a significant number of staff to isolate at the same time. It’s a fear that has led networks to game plan on numerous backup strategies to ensure the nightly bulletin can always get to air.
Channel 7 and Channel 9 have been providing a mixture of on-premise PCR and Rapid Antigen testing for staff working in the studio/newsroom environments. It’s understood both networks moved to implement the strict testing procedures earlier this year once Sydney’s lockdown came into force. Its understood many staff at Seven are tested on a daily basis.
The ease of access to testing services is considered an important safety measure for news crews that are regularly required to enter hotspot LGA zones, and studio production staff that work for long hours in confined spaces.
Fox Sports has also implemented a policy that requires all essential staff working within its Artarmon headquarters to undergo an on-premise Rapid Antigen test every three days. The test has been described as a simple process which takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.
The Channel 10 Pyrmont facility is critical to the network’s news presentation across the country.
In addition to the daily 4-hour Studio 10 live broadcast, staff at the building also produce the nightly 5pm 10 News First bulletins for Sydney, Brisbane and Perth markets and provide production resources for bulletins in Melbourne and Adelaide.
The revelation regarding the lack of testing at Channel 10 comes after TV Blackbox exclusively revealed the network had been forced to send some staff members into quarantine on Monday after a Barista working in a café attached to the Pyrmont studio tested positive for the virus.
In an email sent to employees, the network instructed any staff served face-to-face by the Barista on Thursday or Friday mornings to immediately enter a 14-day quarantine period. The email also links staff to a website where they can find government run testing programs.
Staff who visited the café but had not had close contact with the Barista will be allowed to return to work as soon as a negative COVID test is recorded.
TV Blackbox has approached 10 for comment regarding just how many staff are currently in quarantine or why the network is yet to implement its own COVID testing procedures.
Monday’s edition of Studio 10 went to air with a “trimmed back crew”, co-host Angela Bishop commenting:
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a brush with Covid here, so we are following all of the health guidelines and some of our team are off getting tested and isolating,”
A spokesperson for Channel 10 responded to the COVID-19 case on Monday by telling TV Blackbox: