‘Arizona COVID-19 Town Hall’ draws 1 million Arizona viewers, prompts policy change

An estimated 1 million Arizonans watched a live, hour-long virtual town hall with Gov. Doug Ducey answering questions about COVID-19’s health, economic and educational impact on the state.

Two dozen TV stations and 79 radio stations across Arizona simulcast the event, which was led by the Arizona Broadcasters Association and broadcast Thursday evening from the Arizona PBS studios at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

While there was no live audience at the town hall due to the need for social distancing, more than 5,000 questions were submitted to participating stations by listeners and viewers.

Less than 24 hours after the TV special aired, the governor issued a new order that hair and nail salons must shut down by 5 p.m. Saturday. That was an issue the interviewers – Arizona PBS anchor Ted Simons and longtime Phoenix journalist Carey Pena – pressed Ducey on during the live interview.

The town hall also featured Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ, Arizona National Guard Major General Michael McGuire and State of Arizona Chief Operating Officer Daniel Ruiz.

The event was organized and led by Chris Kline, president and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association.

“There’s nothing more valuable in uncertain times than a shared conversation that we can all join in real time,” Kline said. “I can’t thank Arizona’s broadcasters enough for coming together and making such a critical commitment to conversation with our state leaders.”

Cronkite Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan applauded the state’s broadcasters for putting aside their competition – and providing an hour of free airtime, without commercial interruption – to benefit Arizonans.

“This was an extraordinary benefit to Arizonans, thanks to the leadership of the ABA’s Chris Kline and the state’s broadcasting community,” Callahan said. “Arizonans received the benefit of hearing directly from the state’s chief executive on the impact of the coronavirus on our state, and the event already has driven policy changes.”

Other supporting partners included Skyview Networks in Scottsdale and RIESTER ad agency in Phoenix.

The full broadcast plus a 15-minute extended conversation can be seen here.

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