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Great ideas in studio design
One very slick and impressive installation of Multiplex in the field is at WNYC in New York City. WNYC has just completed a very large facility build in the SOHO neighborhood. As the NPR affiliate in New York, the newsroom is very important, and very large; that department's staff is made of 30 people. (Jim Stagnitto, WNYC director of engineering, was kind enough to show me the installation.) The WNYC system has 32 inputs, which include studio program feeds, network feeds and of course local sources such as other radio stations in the market. The client software is opened on any one of the workstations on the network, and after the source is selected via the very simple GUI, the audio plays through that workstation's speakers. Great functionality is provided to the newsroom personnel. Engineering and production personnel can also use it for quick troubleshooting while sitting at their desks.
One of the ironies of new studio construction projects (and often existing locations as well) is that there are off-air reception difficulties. It could be difficult to pick up one of the stations housed in the facility itself; it could be difficult to pick up an important competitor; it could be difficult to pick up a news source; or it could be tough picking up your designated EAS source or sources.
Many years ago I was the chief engineer of Wild 107 (now Wild 94.9) in San Francisco. We competed against two other stations for what was essentially the same audience group across the entire Bay Area. The PD wanted me to make an air monitor signal available to the jocks not only from our San Francisco competitor (KMEL) but also from our San Jose competitor (since this was an embedded market) known then as Hot 97. The challenge lay in that it was impossible to pick up Hot 97 in San Francisco; not only was it about 40 miles away, but it was separated from us by the hills that make up the San Francisco peninsula. Add to that the fact that our studio was near Fisherman's Wharf in the city, adjacent to Telegraph Hill. We had a hard enough time picking up San Francisco stations there, let alone a San Jose facility.
But I wasn't one to simply say it can't be done before giving it some thought. As it turned out, this PD lived on the Peninsula, about 20 miles or so south of our studio location, and at his house, Hot 97 came in fine. So if you're guessing now that I put a receiver in his garage, and dropped an 8kHz phone line in, you'd be correct. Problem solved.
So fast forward 15 years to New York City. Clear Channel recently completed a large consolidation project, putting all five of its NYC FMs (WHTZ, WKTU, WAXQ, WWPR, and WLTW) under one roof in downtown Manhattan. One of a myriad of engineering problems that needed to be solved was making six EAS sources readily available in our master control, so they could be distributed to the various EAS codecs located across the facility. Our five stations required the six sources not only because of the guidelines of the NYC EAS plan, but also because WHTZ Z100 is licensed to Newark, NJ, and follows the New Jersey state plan. Its designated sources (WFME and NJN, the New Jersey Network) come from New Jersey.
Even though our location is way downtown in Manhattan, and our building kind of lords over the neighborhood, it's still, for the most part, impossible to pick up the two AM sources we needed (WINS and WABC) in our 3rd floor MCR because our building is of an old-fashioned design (lots of steel) and AMs don't penetrate well. The FM and NWS sources come in better, but reception of them on the 3rd floor is subject to multipath that frequently changes. We planned on accessing NJN via off-air reception of channel 51 TV transmitted from Montclair, NJ (northwest of Manhattan), so multi-path issues were feared for it as well.
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