Developing New Broadcast Crews

One of the premiere legacy programs of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, the 2008 Olympic host broadcast organization, is the 2008 Broadcast Training Program. Although various forms of the program have existed at the Olympics since 1984, the current program is by far the largest.

The Broadcast Training Program was created by Manolo Romero, the CEO of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting and Olympic Broadcasting Services, in 1983 ahead of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles. The legacy and quality of the program is maintained through the watchful eye of Hank Levine, the Olympic Broadcasting Services chief financial officer.

The goal of the program was, and remains today, to help university students learn more about the field of media and give them a head start at launching their career in broadcasting. Today, thousands of students who have benefited from this program, have media-related positions around the world.

In China, 1,500 students have been recruited primarily from communication programs in universities located in Beijing, Qingdao and Hong Kong to compete for one of 1,089 paid entry-level broadcast positions at the Olympics. These positions include utility workers, audio assistants, camera assistants, commentary operators (audio quality control positions), liaison officers (liaises between BOB and the rights-holding broadcasters), loggers, tape archives assistants and runners.

Since last October, a series of seven week-long workshops have been offered to recruits. All the students hired must be proficient in English. Each student was required to attend a two-day general workshop covering topics such as an overview of the games, understanding the role of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, shooting the Olympics, international protocol, sports production, the remote truck and more.

Position-specific training sessions lasted from one to five days, eight to 10 hours a day, based on the position. Utilities, camera assistants and audio assistants were taught production skills by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting’s engineering and production staff. The instructors for the workshop were able to give the students an international perspective as they were from all over the world—China, Italy, Greece, Scotland, United States, Australia, Canada, England, Sweden, Singapore and Hong Kong.

More than 50 of BOB’s professional staff were involved in the training workshops. These practical, hands-on exercises significantly added to the educational experience.

A six-camera remote production truck was rented from Beijing TV and was used to shoot 17 sports events, giving Chinese students first-time exposure to remote sports production. Camera assistant student trainees discussed how to determine camera placement, learned how to build and dismantle cameras, run long cables and roll them up.

During the productions, students ran the cameras, hard and handheld, and worked as camera assistants. Audio trainees had to analyze each field of play and determine microphone types as well as placement. During the event, the audio students held microphones, were trained to trouble shoot and mixed the event.

Liaisons, loggers and commentary assistants worked through various roleplay situations, simulating what they may have to deal with during the Olympics. They learned how to run the equipment and troubleshoot problem situations.

Three books were created specifically for these workshops by the BOB staff and given to the students during the workshops. Students were required to listen to the lectures, study the books and later pass tests on the material covered.

The publications included The Broadcast Training Program Manual (a detailed book about BOB, the Olympics, venues and chapters covering each student position), An Introduction to Television Production (published by BOB in Chinese) and Television Sports Production.

One of the most important segments of the workshop was on international protocol. This training included how to work with broadcasters from around the world, how not to offend some people by using gestures that are unacceptable to other cultures and specific discussion subjects that are a good idea to stay away from.

The workshops were designed to go far beyond just training the students for specific jobs at the Olympics. An extensive amount of time was taken to study the three phases of creating a television production—planning and preparation, production and post production. They studied composition, the names of cameras (hard, ENG, robotic, etc.) and audio and microphones, and how each can be effectively used from a single ENG microphone to the latest in surround sound.

Not only will the students be paid the going professional entry-level rate for working for Beijing Olympic Broadcasting but, by participating in the Broadcast Training Program, students will be able to learn more about television production, participate in the largest broadcast ever in the history of broadcasting, work for the largest television production company in the world during the Olympics, work with some of the top broadcasters in the world, see some of the latest media technology and get involved in a cross-cultural experience, right in their own country.

Jim Owens is the chair of the Communication Arts Department at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., has worked on the broadcast of nine Olympics and is the author of the book Television Sports Broadcasting. He can be reached at