Mark Bell's picture
ENGsafety.com
Mark Bell, President
Phone, toll free: 1-UR-SAFE-6090
Facsimile: (781)394-0762
Editor/Publisher - ENG Safety Newsletter
safety@engsafety.com
(photo courtesy of Michigan Assoc. of Broadcasters.)


    Mark Bell has been in various technical support roles during his 40+ years of work in television engineering/broadcasting. He worked on the conversion of Emerson College's television facility from black and white to color in the early 70's, then was on the first Boston based CBS News Electronic News Gathering (ENG) crew in the mid 70's. Bell then worked in a TV station as an operations, then maintenance technician, and branched out on his own in 1982 as one of Boston's first freelance technicians. In that same year, Bell attended the NPPA NewsVideo Workshop to optimize his understanding of the field news gathering techniques the Workshop is so famous for.
    In circumstances similar to that of so many others, Mark's career direction changed. He moved into areas which allowed him to become experienced in ENG, as ENG trucks were being modified from the first primitive "tilt-up Goldenrod mast" vehicles to far more sophisticated vehicles. Mark was also a pioneer in satellite broadcasting, operating early model satellite uplink vehicles, some on 40 foot tractor-trailers used for C-band event uplinking. His work also helped launch many corporate networks in the original Ku-band days. He developed techniques and created protocols for many first time satellite transmissions from all over the US for entertainment, sports, corporate programming and news information transmission.
    Bell's ability to perform equipment maintenance is another area of accomplishment he brings to the industry.  He still serves as a contributor to the great Television Broadcast magazine, now Digital Television, where his monthly articles regarding many notable parts the industry prominently appeared. His four part series on ENG Safety in 1994, which exposed the need for safety training, is one of his more recognized accomplishments, and a relative first in the industry...as he was told, "Trade magazines don't run multipart series". Well, Television Broadcast did.  It is posted on another part of this website. [Link]
    In 1995, Bell was named a faculty member of the well regarded National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) News Video Workshop in Oklahoma.
    In 1996, Bell investigated and published information regarding premature headwear in broadcast VCR's which prompted the Sony Corporation to also investigate the issue, leading to massive product and warranty reforms.
    In 1997, after being promoted to Contributing Editor of Television Broadcast, Bell was the lead editor of the most comprehensive ENG safety report published to date; this time as a cover story and separate section in the October Television Broadcast. Mark was also given the honor of an invitation to his first LEVA (Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association) Conference, presenting information on equipment maintenance.
    1998 brought forth the NPPA's eight page ENG Safety publication, "Look up and Live" set for distribution to over 12,000 readers. It is the largest single mass distribution of safety material ever in the broadcast industry. Bell commented: "The importance of this large scale distribution is even with the importance of potentially life and business destroying ENG accidents which safety training helps avoid. There has yet to be a serious accident involving a properly trained and certified ENG operator, which means all incidents were somewhat destined to occur."
    1999 brought forth the birth of ENG SAFETY NEWSLETTER, a new and comprehensive means of educating and reminding all station employees about ENG Safety.
    In 2000, Bell added the ENG Safety Memo to the ENG Safety Newsletter. The memo is for those who already have a monthly newsletter and want a safety supplement, or would like a one-page sheet to post on a bulletin board.  Bell also started technical writing work under another company name, Technically Write!. He also shared in the "Award of Merit" from "Media Communications Association International"  for co-writing and co-producing (as well as appearing in) the most widely distributed safety videotape in broadcasting, "Safety is Good News," produced with Carissa Vanitzian of Phoenix's public power utility, "Salt River Project."
    2001 brought more of the same with presentations, papers, and keeping up with the 120+ subscriptions to the newsletter and memo. It's estimated that more than 3000 people read the newsletter each month, and well over 5000 have seen the awareness presentation! Bell spent a great deal of time presenting the safety message to all of the ABC Network O & O stations as part of an safety drive through their insurance carrier, CNA/RSKCo. The program was successful in getting the message to those behind the scenes in the newsroom, producers and desk folks, and expanded the scope of those included to reporters and anchors, who occasionally get out in the field for assignment. Many stated that they were happy to have received the safety awareness information.
    2002 has had its share of accidents, with 2 reported lightning strikes to ENG crews during the early summer mixed in with the typical mast topplings from clearance accidents or driving with the mast elevated, and some mast being raised in the wrong spots. More people than ever write Bell through the website for safety information, and station managers have been pleasantly responsive to his (and their employees) safety efforts at many stations.  The web name engsafety.info has also been purchased for use in the news truck safety info business by Mark Bell, and is linked to this engsafety.com page.
    2002 also brought forth one of the largest honors for Mark's work, as California passed legislation for training and equipping of news vehicles. Mark attended numerous historic hearings where manufacturers, lawmakers and safety officials met with members of California's Safety Standards Board, and had specific input into the rationale and creation of the now-signed-into law regulations. His teachings are quoted in some passages of the law, and he was asked to take a final look at the written law prior to its presentation to the Board, an event in which he attended and testified. In his final statement to the Board, among other papers presented to the Board, Bell presented a picture of the State flag to the Board, saying "This is good government." It sure was, and CA laws have been a worldwide benchmark for news trusk safety since. 
    At the end of 2002 and into 2003, Bell was chosen to work on the FAA's mandate for 100% baggage screening at US Airports, working as an on-the-job trainer/assessor of 50,000 baggage screeners. He also attained expertise in equipment used for baggage screening. During this time he learned about terrorism, protocol with the general public when it comes to security measures, and various levels of non-discriminatory security screening.
   July 2003 kicked off the 5th year of the ENG Safety Newsletter and pdf distribution of the successful monthly safety reminder.
   2004 brought forth both the surprise and honor of being named in the acknowledgment of Jonathan Higgins' book "Introduction to SNG and ENG Microwave" for Mark's contributions to the book.

    2005 was a slow year,  and that's a good thing in the safety business. There was one terrible fatality in Texas that resulted in sanctions to one station and stories from the reporter, who escaped the incident, ringing through the industry as her call for safer practices goes on. The Reporter, Jennifer Cavazos-Cisneros, has passed away, but the recorded testimony about the incident as she presented at a safety forum shortly after the tragedy, lives on. While a tragic year, crews and managers are hearing and heeding the messages of safety. The work goes on, and the ENG Safety Newsletter is still read by as many, and the seminars are still popular.
    2006 to 2009 were years of an amazing quest by Bell to continue his safety work and move forward in dealing with terrible issues within the State of Massachusetts. Three Speakers of the House of Representatives were removed from office because of their corruption, and the court system, similar to others in the US, and, seemingly, around the world, has gotten out of hand. Bent on improving the system, Bell has taken up various causes to bring issues to the forefront that may enable those in government to improve tough situations that affect people in and out of State. Safety is certainly one of the issues. In fact, a symptom of the corruption was the appointment of an incompetent and terminated State Safety Director, a campaign contributor from a family heavily involved with the State, to a position as a judge.
     The ENG Safety Newsletter is still strong, and safety watches throughout the industry remain very vigilant, with only a few minor accidents reported. As technology is changing. more and more people are coming into the industry with knowledge of the procedures that will protect life and property, as well as how to get the news on the air as the quicker-than-ever demand for instant coverage has become the norm.
    2010 and 2011 - ENGsafety.com remains strong, and the ENG Safety Newsletter maintains a solid subscription base despite numerous stations sharing resources or simply stopping their news operations.  Presentations are also still requested, but hassles of air travel are simply burdens and the largest expense for any seminar trip.  In 2011 and into the future ENGsafety.com will be researching web-based presentations for reduced price in a more convenient forum and time schedule.

     In 2011 and 2012 Bell was active with safety research for the newest development in ENG, live journalism via backpack transmission, thus giving birth to the term CNG for Cellular News Gathering...doing it on one's feet, recorded, live, or look-live - and fed back. Bell also was active teaching MA drivers to improve their driving attitudes as well as working in areas of technical/safety property inspections for insurance companies after weather related tragedies hit the western MA area.
    2013 has brought more improvements to journalism and ENG Safety as the ENG Safety Newsletter will be detailing a higher level of field safety and how field people can keep themselves safe. Backpack news gathering, CNG, is becoming the norm as technology again steps up to create more ways to utilize existing infrastructure and bring viewers live journalism from literally everywhere...moving vehicles, back alleys, buildings and other places where cell phone coverage permits multiline data transfer, very much like the old ISDN wired-phone-line days.
    2014 brought forth more creative uses for technologies as drones and other airborne devices, along with miniature cameras like the "Go-pro" series, bring cameras and wireless a/v into a whole new realm.
    2015 showed more of the uses of CNG, which came into common practice with typical news remotes, but became more frequently practiced as a greater number of stations used the technology for moving-vehicle live remotes, and ENGsafety.com started labeling the ENG Safety Newsletter as the ENG/SNG/CNG Safety Newsletter, and started covering issues more than the powerline safety issues of the past, gratefully, because with the reduction of ENG mast equipped vehicles, there has also been a reduction in mast incidents and accidents. Much to Bell's dismay, and that of the industry, but right on with Bell's prediction, 2015 featured the live, fatal shooting, of two journalists and the wounding of their interview subject by a domestic terrorist. The shooter was a former TV news employee who used the opportunity of the crew being live in a remote location in very early morning hours to terrorize the audience, then, the rest of the world, temporarily. He recorded the shooting from his apparently worn point of view camera, and streamed the video to public sources.
     2016 featured the first videoconferenced safety presentation for ENGsafety.com...a short one to the folks at the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Convention. Various videoconferencing packages are available through many sources, but none really handle video playback, an important part of the ENGsafety.com presentations, very well. Presentations are best done locally. This videoconferenced presentation was still successful, and certainly got the safety point across. 2016 also was the start of the ENG/SNG/CNG Safety Courses, starting with "Course-100". If 100 is successful, additional courses will be created at a cost that will make it v-e-r-y prqactical for stations to have everybody on the same page for ENG/SNG/CNG Safety.
     2017 kicked off with a lot of interest in the ENG/SNG/CNG Safety Courses. One company committed to custom courses. Another committed to the off-the-shelf product. As the year progressed, not much went on with the extensive course. ENG/SNG/CNG Newsletter readership has waned quite a bit as Bonded Cellular Technologies (CNG) are far more of a product headline than ENG vehicle incidents and accidents. That's a good thing for the industry, but with corporations acquiring more and more broadcast properties, the value of extensive safety preparedness cannot be overstated. A large broadcast corporation is an incredible target for personal injury law...not for employees as much as the innocent bystanders who, up to this point, have been very very lucky when incidents have occured. The monthly safety reminder the newsletter provides for $195/year, about $16/month, is very inexpensive insurance. As we say at ENGsafety.com: "ENG Safety is an issue every month!"
     2018 was a year that showed slow growth, but growth all the same, of the ENG/SNG/CNG Safety Courses. Corporations, and even small companies, enjoyed customizuing the courses to fit their cultures and the general reception has been warm....but as the industry has avoided incidents and accidents, it becomes tough for engineering to 'sell' the concept of safety expenditures...because no accidents are occurring. HR is more scared of sexual harassment issues, which DO happen with some frequency...so guess where the money goes? Safety is a slow moving train in which ENGsafety.com hopes people will become mentally aware instead of physically so.
     2019 was a great year as courses were picked up by some, and are being evaluated by others. As the original courses were v-e-r-y comprehensive, and took many hours to complete, the industry trend tends to be for the one-hour course that can be taken yearly. Instead of having the same type thing HR typically has, where employees take the same sexual harassment or CPR course, or other workplace-behavior courses, ENGsafety.com is designing a progression of courses. A station will be able to take, for example, Course 100 in one year, then in the next, Course 200, then in year 3, course 300, all of which will build on each other. If employees want to refresh the prior course(s), they can do it free of charge. We did not think people would refresh, but have "floated" this out to repeat clients and many employees DO refresh. We stand as being pleasantly surprised. Employees DO respond to the care of management for their well-being. The ENG/SNG/CNG Safety Newsletter is still pretty much in demand at many stations who TRULY believe that "Safety is an ISSUE every month!" We think so, too!
  

There will be more..............
   
    Questions? email Mark Bell at safety@engsafety.com
 
     

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