Local TV is finally coming to the UK, rolling out across 19 cities over the next few months. Comux UK, the community-owned business selected by Ofcom to build and operate the local TV broadcasting platform and owned in equal measure by the local TV licensee, has announced details of its technical infrastructure and the companies selected as infrastructure partners and suppliers. Comux UK is owned in equal measure by the local TV licensees.
The infrastructure includes Arqiva for transmission services, Evertz Mediator system for storage and playout, and Phoenix7’s Zeus Channel Management Software for scheduling.
Arqiva will provide main transmission services,including network access and managed transmissions. The network access agreement will enable Comux to use Arqiva towers, with new antennas on transmission sites. Arqiva will also manage the transmission of Comux’s high power playout signal.
Comux has chosen TSL as the systems integrator for the network operations center (NOC). The core function of the playout will be provided by the Evertz Mediator System to provide an integrated content workflow and playout solution, combining content preparation, media management and playout — including on-screen graphics and secondary events. The Mediator system will be located in the NOC and will be presented to the Licensees via a regular Web Browser in their offices by connecting across the Comux IP network.
Mediator will accept the advanced and transmission schedules produced by the Phoenix7 CMS and scheduling system, and use these to drive the media management and playout functionality.
Comux is based at the IBC (Innovation Birmingham Campus) at Aston, Birmingham,in central England. Comux has leased three main areas from IBC to create a Central Apparatus Room (housing the main electronic equipment), a Master Control Room (providing facilities for the operating staff), and office space (for admininstration, marketing, compliance and other back-office functions).
The Comux NOC will be linked to the local stations and the transmitter sites though a high-speed, high-bandwidth MPLS network from WarwickNet, supporting both data and voice.
Alongside broadcasting on the DVB-T network, some of the local channels are planning carriage on satellite and cable TV, and online.
The playout and transmission systems are conventional; cost-savings on broadcast infrastructure could only impair availability of the broadcasts. But production is different. With the exception of the London station (London Live with an audience of around 4M households), production budgets are going to be much lower than the budgets for national and regional programming that the production community is accustomed to.
The station licensees will cooperate through a trade body, Local TV Network (LTVN). Nigel Dacre, Chair of the LTVN said, "The budgets are going to very tight outside London. As a sector, we have to come up with new ways of approaching TV production, which allows us to produce quality programs at much lower budgets that has been traditional. We need to use the latest technology and work in a multi-skilled way: producing more output for less money. You cannot build your cost base for local TV on traditional TV economics.”
Many of the stations are working with existing institutions, like local universities, using their media departments. This is a model that the PBS has long used in the U.S.
“The TV operation can become an integral part of the courses the college is offering.” Dacre said. "This could be a classic disruptive innovation. New ways of working, new approach to programming, new funding model. This will make a difference to the way the media operates in the UK. This is an exciting new development in the UK media. We have had strong national TV and strong regional TV. We have never had local TV, and this is the opportunity.”