In a prior life, I had a career in broadcast engineering, namely master control. As a master control operator, I was responsible for taking satellite feeds of syndicated programming for later broadcast, making sure programming and commerials air when they're supposed to, making sure Emergency Alert System and FCC compliance.
Enter Sinclair Broadcast Group, a company that owns 184 stations. Full discloure: I was a master control operator at one of their many stations. I hated it. Outdated equipment. The company is awful and they don't know what they're doing.
The events of recent days has me in stitches: it seems that a Russian ransomeware gang has attacked the company, and with it, all of its stations.
The CBS affiliate in my market (it has three cities in its name) has given up the ghost, at least during primetime. During The Conners, for example, rather than airing local commercials, there was naught but black. See, the name of the game is something on the air is better than nothing.
And what of the money? I am of course not privy to
my marker's station's rate card, but I'm guessing that for that one show
alone, they probably lost in the neighborhood of $14,000. That's "we
might have to lay people off" money.
But my local affiliate isn't the only victim. Not by a long shot.
I must admit, watching these affiliates fail, especially in my market,
is gratifying for me, because of the way I was treated. Stations all over the nation are providing the entertainment.
All kinds of funny things are happening. Servers are crashed and irretrievable, meaning that commercials can't play, meaning that literally every second that passes represents the loss of revenue. If this goes on for much longer, layoffs may occur.
It's bad news for the...well, news department. At many stations, they've had to resort to covering stories with smartphones and there are problems airing packages. The weather department isn't safe either: many stations had to resort to putting forecasts on dry erase boards.
One thing to point out here is that most, if not all, of their stations are automated, meaning that the master control ops literally have no control, which is why stations sit in black, losing money every second that passes on. In my day, we actually had to use our brains (with automation, even the dumbass receptionist can run master control) to get through shifts.
Sure, the commercials would be on a server of some sort, but programming was always manually run, and I would have to roll spots myself, referring to the log. My point is that I would have been able to run spots and programs, completely independent of servers.
But today? Oh, today, master control operators would likely go into shutdown mode if we took away their precious computers, servers, and other crutches. In my day, we had brains. Today, not at all.
Sure, automation has its
advantages, and although I lost my job to automation, I'm laughing at
Sinclair's misery, because they brought this upon themselves. Let the
computers be the masters, well...look what happened. It couldn't have
happened to a more deserving company.
I will give them credit for rolling with the punches, just like every department, including master control, which has been hit to the point that old-school satellite feeds of syndicated programming has, for the moment, become the rule.
But it's fun to watch them fail. May this go on for as long as possible!