Top tech for 24/7 news channel


The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has built a multi-million rand
infrastructure for its new 24-hour news channel, which launched on 1 August this year,
and has invested in the recruitment and training of additional news staff.

Preparations for the channel began five years ago. The news channel is being broadcast
on MultiChoice’s pay-TV platform, DStv (channel 404) and will be also air on digital
terrestrial television, once it is rolled out in South Africa.

Said SABC’s head of News Jimi Matthews: “The channel is not positioned as a
replacement to the now defunct SABC International, a 24-hour channel which had a
limited launch on signal distributor Sentech’s satellite platform, Vivid, in March 2008.

“Unlike SABC International, our new channel is a multi-platform operation that will utilise
all new media platforms. The new channel is motivated by today’s information-rich world.
Consumers’ viewing patterns and behavior has changed – they no longer wait for
scheduled bulletins, they go out and find the news for themselves. So we are
responding to their needs.

“While content remains queen (the consumer is the king), it will be technologically-
driven. Our mandate is to provide the latest news but we need the technology tools to
be able to do so,’ added Matthews.

To this end the SABC’s New Technology department has replaced the current Vortex
Pinnacle (news production system) with a sQ Server system from Quantel. Additionally,
the Newsroom computer system has migrated from the existing Newstar system to the
Associate Press ENPS newsroom computer system.

Technology manager of News Facilities Roedean Kok explained that the automation and
integration between the systems is done using the MOS protocol and with Miranda
Omnibus ingest control.

“The system allows ENPS desktop shot-list editing for 140 journalists and 21 Cut-Cut
editors all accessing the same Quantel server at any one time. Questek has supplied the
equipment for the above system with the assistance of their system integrator, ATG.

“Replacing the above system has allowed us to build a Greenfields Line Record and
Server Room to accommodate the equipment and roll out new workflows, while enabling
us to stay live without any on-air interruptions. The Line Record facility has an
eight-screen multiviewer video wall that allows all contribution feeds, whether live or file-
based, to arrive for ingest into the servers. Furthermore, this area allows the flexibility
of media transfers to different formats, tape or file, to enable ease of operations and
media transfers as required.’

A new Final Control Centre (FCC) playout is equipped with Miranda Colossus automation
to ensure full automation and integration with the TVBMS programming and scheduling
system. It has a full video wall with a standard Miranda PresMaster switcher.

“We have built a new studio (Studio 9) for the channel that will allow almost all the
productions to be switched live to the FCC for playout. Studio 9 is equipped with a
Barco Video Wall display consisting of 18 LCD displays on the studio floor and which is
controlled by a panel in the control room. The studio is further equipped with three
cameras, a crane camera, a Snell Kahuna production switcher and a Yamaha audio
mixer. We launched in 16:9 SD but all systems are HD capable,’ noted Kok.

The channel is predominantly English but will carry news in the other official languages
as well.


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