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The Broadcasters' Four Agreements

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At 37,000 feet, flying home from Telemundo Show, the largest annual July broadcasting convention in Mexico, and thinking of my next trip to IBC, my mind drifted, like a cloud, as I contemplated the similarities between the broadcasters' fundamental four agreements and the best selling Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, master and shaman of the Toltec philosophy.

Let us first consider all four of the Toltec agreements according to Don Miguel Ruiz. They are:

• Be impeccable with your word
• Don't take anything personally
• Don't make assumptions
• Always do your best

Ruiz teaches us that these agreements formed the four pillars governing the behaviour of the Toltec civilisation.
And let us now consider the four fundamental agreements every broadcaster must comply with in order to survive and succeed in this highly competitive business. They are:

• A licence with the appropriate licensing authority
• Commercial agreements with the rights owners
• Commercial agreements with advertisers
• A quality-based unwritten agreement to attract potential viewers (free-to-air) or a commercial agreement (pay TV)

Opening my second small bottle of wine, courtesy of a delightful air-hostess, it occurred to me just how close these two sets of agreements are and how we may benefit from applying the Toltec philosophy to modern broadcasting practice. And so, I would like to share my thoughts with you and invite you to study the attached picture.

For a broadcaster, the critical first step is to obtain a licence from the government or the licensing authority, for without this, nothing else can proceed. An important part of the application procedure is a long term plan covering the general philosophy and direction of the channel which must be submitted for consideration by the licensor. This long term plan can be generated by various means utilising, for example available capital, market needs, local knowledge, but the final version will undoubtedly benefit from the guiding hand of existing scheduling systems, with their advanced scheduling modules which contain budgeting and multi-versioning. It almost goes without saying that the Toltec agreement to be impeccable with your word will govern this aspect of broadcast licensing, because without such impeccability, the licensing authority is unlikely to approve and/or prolong the appropriate licence.

Almost no modern broadcaster can survive solely on their own content, and in order to create a full schedule, it is necessary to purchase external content. Rights owners are always sensitive to unauthorised use of their intellectual rights and transgressing these legal constraints can prove expensive for the unwary or careless broadcaster. The Toltecs teach us not to take things personally and it is critical for broadcasters to realise that the owners of external content expect an agreement and payment before one can use the essence, even if it is already in the library. And to ensure that such errors do not occur, it is wise to use a professional rights management tool. Do not take this personally.

Without exception, all broadcasters require funding, and the principle source for most stations is advertising. Broadcasters sell commercial space to agents who arrange to fill the capacity with appropriate advertising, which of course, raises revenue. However it is not so simple that it can be ignored and it is critical that broadcasters do not assume that they have all the answers, when in fact, they may not have all the questions. The process of raising revenue from advertising requires hard work, market research and constant updating of information, all of which can be assisted by professional ad sales tools. The Toltecs teach us not to make assumptions and it is very clear how appropriate this guidance is in this context. Errors can be expensive so decisions should be based upon facts and not assumptions.

The acquisition and maintenance of good audience statistics is not a given but is solely dependent on continuous high quality programming. The broadcasting business is extremely competitive and hundreds of channels are just waiting to steal your viewers. The Toltecs teach us to always do our best and this principle is the key to getting and keeping the audience share high.

And so we see how the ancient wisdom of the Toltecs is still valid for modern day commercial operations, in this case broadcasting. We would like to conclude this article by utilising the fourth agreement one more time and recommending that broadcasters can always do their best by establishing a long term partnership with Provys whose suite of modules can assist all processes mentioned in this article. A long list of broadcasters can attest to the fact that Provys have the most effective solutions for the 21st century, but we must never lose sight of the Toltec guidance from 1,000 years ago. We trust you are all in agreement.

Author: Martin Junek

Image: With thanks to Richard Schiller's contribution to Broadcast Engineer's Reference Book.

This article also features in the September edition of Broadcast Film & Video.

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