CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes Going HD

By Chris Ariens 

While the CBS Evening News faces the uncertain future of its anchor, one thing is for sure: Katie Couric‘s broadcast is going HiDef. TVNewser was given inside access to the new CBS Broadcast Center control room Wednesday.

The state of the art facility is “years in the making,” said CBS news VP of operations Frank Governale. After the relocation of several departments to accommodate the new control room, construction finally began last July. A month of rehearsals begins next week. The Evening News will debut in HD by “late June/early July,” said Governale. The roll-out of field crews shooting in HD will begin with Washington and continue from there. The commitment to HD will expand later this year with 60 Minutes broadcasting in HiDef for its 41st season premiere in September. All CBS News broadcasts will be in HD “by the end of ’09,” said Governale.

The new control room comes complete with a conference room for use during continuous coverage, a translation booth for foreign news coverage, enough workstations to allow for a live broadcast of one program as well as the planning of two others, and the ubiquitous red phone. “Something I got from Roone Arledge,” CBS News & Sports president Sean McManus told us, referring to his mentor. The red phone is the division president’s direct line from his office to the executive producer for…let’s just say…instant feedback. “Let’s make sure the ring is on loud,” McManus reminded Governale.

The phone aside, “the key was to keep the noise level down,” said Governale. Not an easy feat in a noisy business where everyone wants to be heard. Mnemonic communication panels, and constant reminders, will help. The facility replaces a 20+ year-old control room and comes just in time for CBS’ general election coverage. Couric’s set and graphics are HD-ready. The control room was the final key.

McManus said it took a fair amount of time, but little convincing of his boss. “We went to Leslie [Moonves] with a timetable and the cost and now…here we are.”

“It puts us on par with the other networks,” McManus said. “It’s a positive step to where we should be.” “It’s also helped morale,” Governale added. “Employees see the commitment we are making to the news division and it helps.”

And the slick new technology comes with a reminder as you walk through the door: a large, framed photo of Edward R. Murrow hovers over all those who enter.