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Small Ohio station maximizes Utah Scientific master control to manage four channels

WLIO, a Block Communications station in Lima, OH, is using routing and master control technology from Utah Scientific for the HD broadcast of four major network affiliates from a single 12ft x 20ft control room.

The facility has been in operation since 1953. Previously only an NBC affiliate, WLIO added the three new channels last summer and renovated its technical infrastructure to accommodate them. The renovation included replacement of a 20-year-old Utah Scientific analog routing system and switcher with the new Utah router and master control. In fact, Tom Harmon, Utah Scientific’s current president and CEO, sold that analog router to WLIO in 1989 when he was a Utah Scientific sales representative.

Utah Scientific worked with WLIO to customize two features: “emergency join,” which allows breaking news to be broadcast on all four stations, and a bypass of the automated emergency alert system (EAS) to enable the WLIO meteorologist to give his own weather updates. In addition, WLIO uses the system's master/slave feature to slave one station to another for news, weather, sports, elections, breaking news and other public service functions.

The system, based on a UTAH-400/288-frame router (loaded 144x144) and four MCP-2020 control panels, has allowed WLIO to set up four unique operating positions, each customized for the user’s preferences. While other stations throughout the United States are using digital master control for subchannels, WLIO is unusual in deploying the system to air the major network affiliates. And because each Utah Scientific MCP-2020 control panel can handle 10 channels, the system gives WLIO plenty of room to take on more content, either locally generated or coming from other network program streams.

WLIO deploys 34 satellite dishes to pick up content and then records, segments and prepares-for-air 430 different programs every week. The facility relies on WireReady Automation and automatic satellite recorder, which interfaces directly with the UTAH-400 router to select the program and satellite dish for recording. For automatic streaming and recording of news for the WLIO website, a dedicated server controls a router output.

A further benefit of the master control at WLIO is the system's easy-to-use soft panels. Available in the station’s news and production edit booths, the software-based panels allow WLIO staff to route any source into the work area. The software panels reside on the same computer as electronic news preparation software, facilitating fast, reliable switching of news feeds.