Creating a Duopoly News Operation. IP Required.

EricUtter 300By Erik Utter
Utter Associates

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For the past few years, I’ve been working with a number of broadcasters in smaller markets who are combining news resources. Instead of having separate news operations for the ABC affiliate and the NBC affiliate, for example, they are combining the two into one news operation.  

By combining all resources into one newsroom and creating a common pool of reporters in one broadcast center, stations have more reporting resources than they’d have separately, and at a significantly reduced operational cost. More important, the arrangement maintains the distinct style and voice of each.

It makes sense, particularly in smaller markets. But as a system integrator, I can tell you that it doesn’t get much more challenging than separately branded newscasts sharing the same studios—especially when it comes to the handling of audio.

IP Audio for Fast IFB, Studio Changeover

From a video perspective, it’s easy to overlook audio. But what’s often forgotten is the mix-minuses, and routing the correct IFB and mix-minus to the right talent. It doesn’t help that newscasts typically operate on a very tight news schedule. Turnaround time between, say, an ABC and a CBS branded newscast can be less than a minute and a half. That’s not much time to change out the anchors, the set, the graphics, everything…right down to the flag on the field microphone.

To handle the different audio mixing requirements of each newscast, I often recommend Wheatstone E-6 consoles and WheatNet-IP audio infrastructure.  The E-6 is an IP console and the most-often used features are easily accessible from the surface, which has significantly reduced on-air mistakes. Yet, as part of a networked system, the console can access any source in the network, route presets to or from anywhere, and bring up another studio’s program bus – all of which make it perfect for dynamic studio environments like this.  

The light bulb in my head went off when I saw that it made all the IFBs, all the mic sharing and all the studio swapping simple. I realized I could significantly reduce integration cost and improve simplicity for the operator. With this system, it is a press of a button to completely reconfigure a control room, GPI’s and On-Air lights, and more importantly, to reconfigure mix-minus to talent in the studio or IFBs to talent in the field.

Utility Mixers at Each IP Connection Simplify Mix-Minus

Unique to WheatNet-IP is that it combines integrated control with audio tools such as utility mixers at every BLADE in the network for any number of uses. For example, any WheatNet-IP BLADE contains I/O that allows access to any other I/O, mix engine, or PC based network audio driver.  Utility mixers simplify the need for making specialty mix-minuses without tying up aux busses or risking operator error.

Routing, mixing, channel assignments and other parameters can easily be recalled by an operator at the press of a button. This means that the studios could easily manage multiple successive newscasts with live remotes, for example, each with their own separate audio so that each talent in succession would get the correct throw from the studio. Traditionally, I’d have to bring in a big IFB router to do the job or create complex patching. But with WheatNet-IP, it’s all taken care of with one or two button pushes from the console.

Most important is that the newscasts are able to preserve their unique voice, while saving significantly on operational and capital costs. 

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