Media General deploys digital automation

Media General
deploys digital automation

In early 2004, Media General Broadcast Group began centralizing master control operations for 12 of its 26 TV stations. By converging their operations, it would minimize capital investment costs and reduce operational expenses. The stations chosen for the centralization project were selected primarily because of their common network affiliation with CBS. WSPA in Spartanburg, SC was chosen as the location for the new central broadcast operations center.

The company created a plan that would build on the previously created centralized traffic operations concept that was placed in service in 2001. The goals of centralizing master control operations included substantial improvements in operational efficiency, high reliability, minimal capital outlay and low interconnection costs.

To minimize interconnect costs the organization adopted a distributed control approach. This approach leaves all video content and switching functionality at the local station but allows control from the operations center. Monitoring is performed using low data-rate video encoders. Very early in this project, engineers realized that the relatively high latency of low data-rate video monitoring would pose a problem when operators were switching commercial breaks in live programs such as sporting events.

As a result, they developed a solution to the live switching problem — to provide the operations center with network satellite receivers, which would mirror the network receivers located at each remote station. This would allow the operations center to virtually eliminate monitoring latency for live network events. However, it required a receiver controller that could mirror the CBS satellite receiver switching systems at each station.

Media General contacted Micro-First and reviewed the system requirements. Within 45 days, Microfirst supplied the MPC-1610 controller, a digital automation system that solved the problem. The operations center installed a controller and a satellite receiver for each station and worked with CBS and MicroFirst to configure them for mirroring. The satellite monitoring system began working in July 2004.

The MPC-1610 controllers at the broadcast operations center have been a key component in minimizing interconnection costs while maintaining a high degree of product quality. These controllers also met the company’s goal of improving competitiveness and profitability by reducing capital outlay.

Design Team
Media General
Ardell Hill, sr. VP, broadcast op.
Mark Turner, dir. of info. tech.
Matt Heffernan, general mgr.

MicroFirst Engineering
John Scarpa, president
John Beneat, CTO
Jerry Berger, VP/GM
Equipment List
MicroFirst: MPC-1600 Digital Earth station controller, GI 4800 satellite receiver
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