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Inside the Radio Network
We've created content and gotten it to the head end. With literally hundreds of programs to manage, how is it possible to keep track of it all?
Let's start with routing. A network would be impossible to manage without a large audio router. Each of the audio content sources appears on a router input. The audio router supports analog or digital and a source might be a studio, an ISDN output, output from an audio card from an automation computer or a T-1 frame or codec output. Each of these router sources has a direct index association to our automation system. Each outgoing bus of the automation has a fixed router output. That gives the network the ability to send any audio source to any destination. Those destinations will be satellite channels, studios, audio automation inputs for recording or return feeds to the producers. In NY our audio router is 1049 x 1049 and in Denver our router is 672 x 800. There's a lot of flexibility here to share sources to our uplink channels. Routing them all manually would be impossible to keep track of.
To keep track of everything we use a multi-channel automation system. In a typical radio station environment, schedules of what the station airs come from the traffic department (commercials) and programming department (music, liners) and are loaded into the audio content management system to create the day's operating log. At the network, we have the same need but imagine doing that 150 times. Multichannel automation systems are used in larger networks like cable head ends, television networks and here at the radio network.
To scale up to run 150 simultaneous schedules from one system, we use an enterprise network controller. This ingests schedules and commands for all 150+ channels daily and sends commands to all external devices telling them what to do at just the right time to keep everything in synchronization. It controls the audio router, the audio record and playback system and the satellite uplink.
The network automation system is the heart of the network and really what keeps all programs running on time and over the right channels. Custom software is used to merge the traffic logs with the program schedules to create the day's log. Which leads to the final area, distribution.
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