WRAL Health Team producer Rick Armstrong recently met with a group of Russian doctors and health providers from the Republic of Tatarstan and gave them a tour of our station.
The Russian Health Delegation came here as part of a two-week visit to the area and wanted to know how WRAL presents healthy lifestyles information on our newscasts and in our programming, according to Rick.
They also visited Duke and UNC medical centers.
Thankfully, they arrived with their own interpreter. In my remarks and answers to their questions, I quickly learned to break my thoughts up into a few sentences followed by a pause so that the interpreter to translate for me.
They wanted to know what percentage of our evening newscast is devoted to public service announcements that may or may not deal with health issues. Of course, I couldn't give them an exact percentage, but my guess was that in an hour an a half, we might air a minute, to a minute and a half of PSA's - but that many stories within our newscast fulfill the same purpose of presenting valuable information for the public, including health information in our Health Team stories and other health news.
They said that in Russia, broadcasters are required to devote 5% of their programming to public service ads.
I explained what, in my mind, makes WRAL-TV unique among broadcasters: that we are one of the few (if not only) TV stations in the country still owned and operated by the same family that founded it. Because the founding family and CEO of our company live in the community, we are even more committed to meeting our viewers' needs for good health information and in other areas of their daily lives.
As examples, I spoke about our involvement with the Komen Foundation, our Coats for the Children campaign, our "Docs on Call" segments, etc.
They seemed somewhat surprised that there wasn't a heavier hand of government control over our content than the FCC license renewal system, but I think they were impressed that we serve the public interest simply due to a sense of duty and because this is "our" community and the viewers are often our friends and members of our families.
I gave them a quick tour of the newsroom as anchor Pam Saulsby and chief meteorologist Greg Fishel were recording pre-show bits for the 5:00 show.
Before parting, WRAL director/producer Clarence Williams supplied a cache of WRAL promotion goodies for our visitors, and they showered us with two mini-Russian flags, several pins, pamphlets and business cards, all written in Russian language script, all of which will make nice conversation pieces for my desk.