Walking the Talk

I have, over the last year or so, written several columns on topics related to the growing influence of information technology and related disciplines over the broadcast industry.

I tackled the incredible pace of technological change, tried to dispel the myths about the reliability and security of IT-based systems, encouraged the creation of technological abstraction layers and addressed the fundamental migration from deterministic to nondeterministic distribution platforms.

I wrote of the all-powerful multimedia consumer, on whether IT belongs in the broadcast center, on the growing importance of application integration in streamlining workflows and, finally, about the ruthless but inevitable nature of organizational change.

At the end of the day, it is one thing to talk about what needs to be done and why, and another to actually put these concepts and processes to work in one's environment. So that is what we will tackle in my next few columns.

For the next 18 months, PBS and its member stations will undergo several major technology deployments that combined, will profoundly affect every single aspect of its end-to-end content distribution workflow.


Starting in early April, PBS will shift from a standard tape-based workflow to a file-driven environment. It will leverage tightly woven integration among the Avid editing platform, the Broadview traffic and scheduling software, the MassTech archive management system, the Schedu-All resource allocation and scheduling system, the Remedy trouble-ticketing system, the Oracle Financials software and the Omneon play-out servers. This intricate ballet of metadata and essence files will be made possible by a combination of standard and custom interfaces and APIs, extensive use of XML-based interactions, as well as some messaging translation, queuing and management performed by a Microsoft BizTalk server. More details about this deployment will be covered in my next column.

Next, we will tackle the migration away from our in-house legacy application (NOLA/PDB) onto the BroadView software set. This launch culminates a several-year process of exhaustively studying our existing operational requirements, our expected future needs and the new workflows required to operate at a higher level of efficiency in a mostly tapeless environment. I can truthfully say the complexity of this deployment has rivaled any and all enterprise-level implementations with which I have been involved over the span of my entire career. Although I will probably end up writing a book on this endeavor, you will hear about it far more succinctly in a future column.


Simultaneously with the first two items, we will be deploying the first ACE Master Control system at Iowa Public Television. I will defer to my esteemed colleague and fellow columnist, William Hayes, the elaboration on that particular effort. The initial installation will be quickly followed by several other such efforts in those public television stations that have made the decision to deploy this type of master control solution. At present, we expect to have completed six such installations by year's end. They, too, will be the topic of a future column.

Later this year, and as part of the consolidation of the PBS Technical Operation and Satellite Operation Centers, PBS itself will be deploying the ACE infrastructure as it updates its master control environment. As with any other major mission-critical relocation, this particular odyssey will probably merit several columns.


Finally, the mother of all projects! Public television is migrating from the classical satellite-based real-time streaming of content that it pioneered into the brave new world of hybrid networks and packet-switching technologies, using a combination of satellite-based, real-time streaming for live/near live content; satellite-based faster that real-time IP multicasting file delivery of "in the can" content; and plain old Internet-based delivery confirmation and control back channel.

Public Broadcasting will substantially increase the efficiency of its content distribution processes, improve the picture quality of the content delivered to its member stations, and facilitate more efficient workflows at both ends of the process while simultaneously reducing its transport-related costs.

The successful completion of these projects will be highly dependent on the stamina and labor of love by the staffs (technology and otherwise) at PBS and its member stations. But together, they have proved time and again that they can bring tremendous innovation and benefit to the broadcasting community. I am constantly humbled and awed by their ability to deliver on their missions, despite obvious resource shortcomings.

Amid all the technical details, mumbo jumbo, acronyms and hoopla, I will also try to appropriately convey those magnificent human efforts that, after all is said and done, will actually get the job done.

Count on IT!