KFMB-TV Monitors With Volicon Observer

December 9, 2008
by Rich Lochmann
Director of Engineering

SAN DIEGO In continuous operation since 1949, KFMB-TV is this city's oldest television station, and the only one to maintain its original network affiliation—CBS. We're owned by Midwest Television, and are currently San Diego's most watched television station, based on the Nielsen sign-on to sign-off share.

In our competitive business, such longevity and market leadership does not happen by accident. Technology has played a key role in our station's success, especially as we have begun to transition our operations to digital file-based systems running on our own IP network. A case in point is our new content monitoring system, based on the Volicon Observer, which provides around-the-clock recording and monitoring of off-air content for our broadcasts. This is an important tool for complying with ASCAP and BMI contracts, and also allows us to easily troubleshoot and correct transmission errors.

The Volicon Observer
Prior to the Observer, we used a 24-hour VHS recording system that was very good at fault tracking, but inadequate for meeting our compliance needs. We also wanted a more efficient process that would eliminate searching videotapes to locate content.


We've deployed a two-channel Observer system, enabling us to record and monitor video from our HD broadcast on one channel and SD off-air content on the other. The system includes an external storage expansion array to accommodate up to 180 days of aired content. For each channel, the Observer analyzes the signals for anomalies such as missing closed captions, absence of video sync, black video, static screen, or low audio levels. The Observer records the aired audio track, as well as the director's private line intercom track, enabling our operators to later determine whether a transmission fault was due to a technical error or a missed cue. When a fault occurs, the system automatically notifies operators via e-mail with an attached clip of the video displaying the fault.

In addition to monitoring transmission quality, the Observer plays an important role in complying with performance rights organizations. With the monitoring system, we're able to supply the periodic video evidence needed to demonstrate that protected material is being aired according to contracted specifications, helping us avoid fines and ensuring that we're paying proper licensing fees.


The monitoring system has earned high marks for ease of use when compared with the old tape-based system. Because the Observer runs on our existing IP network, all users can access aired content from their desktop PCs. With a continuous, searchable record of our broadcast stream, we're able to be much more thorough and exhaustive in tracking transmission errors and instances of specific types of aired content.

The Observer has also caught the attention of managers in other departments. We've just launched the system in the news department to enable news directors to monitor and evaluate newscasts. In addition, advertising traffic managers are interested in accessing content to verify that advertising aired as contracted. With such a range of applications, the Observer has proven its worth to our organization and in playing a key role in providing the highest-quality viewing experience and yet operating as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

Rich Lochmann is director of engineering at KFMB-TV in San Diego and has been in broadcasting for 41 years. He may be contacted at [email protected]

For additional information, contact Volicon at 781-221-7400 or visit www.volicon.com.

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