TV Journalists Face Possible Roadside Makeover
Federal Highway Administration Regulation 23 CFR 634 Requires High-Visibility Safety Clothes on or Near Public Highways
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/4/2008 8:54:00 AM
Not only are broadcasters going to have to worry about the switch to digital broadcasting, but the switch to lime-green reflective vests is gaining on them even more rapidly in the rearview mirror, as it were.
Attention, national and local news operations: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulation 23 CFR 634 goes into effect Nov. 24. So what?
It requires workers on or near public highways to wear high-visibility safety clothes on the job. Looking to cut down on the risk of injury or death, the FHWA expanded the definition of worker to include others sharing the right of way, including "media representatives when covering news events or similar actions within highway rights-of-way," according to language in the Register.
This means that starting in the fall, there will be no more reporters in camel-hair overcoats and stylish parkas doing those winter stand-ups on traffic and weather along any public roadway -- at least not without day-glow vests, reflective tape or other approved safety gear, as well.
John Mozena, a spokesman for work-clothing manufacturer Carhartt of Dearborn, Mich., said the company has begun reaching out to media outlets, starting in Detroit, about what they may have to do to comply, including dealing with technical issues of how to light and shoot the clothes.
He conceded that the company is looking to create a new market, but he said TV stations will need to be educated about what the change means, adding that the new regulations are complicated and won't mean "just throwing on a vest."
"This is not a simple standard," he said. "It has issues like whether it is day or night or whether or not it is a ‘distracted’ worker," which he thinks would apply to a cameraman looking through a viewfinder.
"In that case," he added, "you have to go beyond a vest to covering your arms with reflective material.”
"It’s going to affect a lot of TV people covering any news that happens on or near the roads," Mozena said. "It’s also going to create technical issues as crews figure out how to light and shoot somebody wearing a fluorescent-lime-green vest or coat with retro-reflective taping on it without trashing a white balance or washing out skin tones."
The Radio-Television News Directors Association, which represents electronic journalists, has begun receiving e-mails from station news staffers concerned about the new rule, according to RTNDA president Barbara Cochran, who said the organization is studying the issue. "We are concerned that this was adopted without input from the industry,” she added.
Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the highway administration, said that he expects media crews to comply since it will make them less likely to be hit by traffic, adding that safety is its own reward.
If they didn't, however, it would be up to the states to enforce compliance, with the redirecting of federal highway funds a possible sanction in extreme cases, though he does not expect that to be necessary. "Hopefully they won't become the story," he says.
"Workers means people on foot whose
duties place them within the right-ofway
of a Federal-aid highway, such as
highway construction and maintenance
forces, survey crews, utility crews,
responders to incidents within the
highway right-of-way, and law
enforcement personnel when directing
traffic, investigating crashes, and
handling lane closures, obstructed
roadways, and disasters within the
right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway."
The way I read this - the media is not necessarily included. It was 'suggested' by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. I'm not opposing this, but some consultancy with the RTNDA would have been advisable.
"The AHAS suggests adding vehicle service responders such as tow truck drivers or other roadside vehicle service responders, media representatives when covering news events or similar actions within
This is not included in the definition of worker. Shame on Carhartt.
Chuck Ranney - 1/21/2008 3:42:00 PM EST
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