Icelandic broadcaster prepares for any further volcanic eruptions

Just a few weeks ago, the attention of the world’s media was focused on the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and its cloud of ash that caused widespread disruption to air travel. Though for now the story may have slipped off the news agenda, the Icelandic broadcaster, RUV, knows it may re-surface at any moment.
In particular, observers wait to see whether there’s a volcanic eruption from Eyjafjallajökull’s “angry sister”, Katla. On the three occasions in recorded history when Eyjafjallajökull has erupted, Katla followed suit.
“The idea scares us,” said RUV’s head of News and Sports Operations, Vidar Oddgeirsson. “If it happens, it will be nothing compared to what you’ve seen so far. It’s likely to shut down everything.”
When Eyjafjallajökull first erupted towards the end of March, no-one outside of Iceland took much notice. It was only three weeks later when the volcano’s clouds of ash closed much of Europe’s airspace that TV crews were mobilised.
“When the second eruption happened,” explained Hannes Johannsson, RUV’s chief of technical operations, “there was huge interest from television stations in coming here and doing live stand-ups and tape playouts.”
RUV received requests from broadcasters to supply constant live satellite playout facilities. But no SNG trucks exist in Iceland due to the country’s geographical position which requires a SNG vehicle to be equipped with a very large antenna. So RUV established a live feedpoint about 30kms from the volcano and microwaved the signal to a nearby town. From there the signal was transmitted via fiber to RUV’s headquarters in Reykjavík and uplinked onto a satellite using fixed antennae owned by EBU.
“I had not imagined how big the story would be,” said Hannes. “Very soon EBU suggested we could work together. We advertised the special event on their website and they took control of the bookings. A lady arrived from the States and helped us out at the location.“
Having had experience of Eyjafjallajökull erupting, RUV is now confident it can handle anything worse that Katla might produce. Hannes told TVZ, “We have talked a lot about it and how we should react. It’s hard to know what will happen because the eruption could be very big or reasonably small. We are sure we won’t be able to get very near to the volcano for security reasons; possibly there will be large flooding.”
“But also we believe that if Katla does erupt we will probably get warnings. If it happened tomorrow, we would contact EBU and they would help us. If necessary, they may fly in a SNG which would make us more mobile. In any case, we would be able to handle all the traffic and possibly offer more than one live position.”  -- 1st June 2010
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