Case Studies TV Channels

The first pan-African news channel goes live

TVC News’ main set.

TVC News launched early this year with the tagline ‘Through African Eyes’ giving viewers an African perspective on news from the continent. Media services company MediaGuru delivered the multi-million dollar, 24/7 HD-ready news channel project in less than two years. Vibhuti Arora delves deeper into the intricacies of establishing the channel

It began two years ago when Nigerian broadcaster Continental Broadcasting Service (CBS) expressed a desire to launch a news channel that would be

pan-African in nature and reflect the continent in the right prespective. To translate this vision into reality, CBS sought the services of New Delhi-based media services company MediaGuru, which undertook a turnkey project to establish the channel.

MediaGuru was hired to deliver end-to-end solutions to launch the first 24/7 fully automated news channel representative of all of Africa with the long-term objective to make the continent’s voice heard.

The contract for the multi-million dollar project was awarded in the second half of 2011. The TV channel went on air in February 2013, on a satellite named CONSAT, which is equally owned by CBS.

Engaged in media consulting, technology and digital archiving solutions, with expertise across television, film, radio, new media and print, MediaGuru provided a turnkey solution that took care of every aspect of the project, right from detailed business planning, to distribution, marketing and branding aspects as well as the construction of the facility and its systems integration. The project was executed by MediaGuru in close consultation with TVC management.

“The groundwork on the project began in 2011 when the project was first awarded to MediaGuru. We sat together planning the broadcast vision with a road map for the future for a channel that will represent Africa in the global media marketplace,” says Lemi Olalemi, Deputy CEO of TVC News.

“Our business plan spanned a five-year period. Being a new, standalone project, we started from the very beginning with a broadcast specific building. We conceptualised the look and feel, designed the sets and newsrooms keeping the channel’s goals in mind. We worked on our editorial and programming needs and a broad plan for the timely execution of the project.”

TVC News is the first real, pan-African news broadcaster, covering the continent from an African perspective, says Nigel Parsons, CEO of TVC News.

“Our aim is to be the leading broadcaster when it comes to African affairs. We want people to make TVC News their first point of reference for all things African. It’s a gradual and organic process, and we have a long way to go.

“More often than not, Africa is seen only from a foreign viewpoint by broadcasters who paint a negative image of the continent. TVC News covers not just news, but also celebrates the culture of Africa and the many positives we have here.”

On the technology front, the selection, acquisition, implementation, integration, commissioning, and technical training was also conducted by MediaGuru to create a fully automated and efficient news station that delivered world-class service.

 

The TV station

The TVC headquarters in Lagos is spread across an area of 32,439 sq ft over two floors. With 50 workstations on the ground floor and 36 on the first floor, the facility has 14 high resolution, nonlinear editing stations with high-end machines and 27-inch LED displays.

The facility also includes an eight-person make-up room and a graphics room with three studios.

The project comprises three production control rooms (PCRs) equipped with 2ME switchers. The monitor wall in each PCR has three 65-inch displays with one of them being driven by HD output multiviewers. The integrated newsroom features playout, graphics and teleprompter and a 32-channel audio mixer, dual-channel telephone hybrid, audio replay units and a DVD player.

The 40-seater newsroom features an automated NRCS with browsing, scripting and rundown scheduling alongside a computer system integrated with graphics, playout and teleprompter scripting. There are LCDs in the backdrop with live video distribution for viewing different news channels.

The master control room uses a fully automated and redundant frame-accurate playout system with a 16-automation controlled master switcher with logo, bugs, external graphics and a ticker key. It also has a standby switching router and waveform monitoring for analysing video signals. The 50-inch display is driven by HD output multiviewers and offers an online graphics system.

The ingest/link room has line racks for ingesting feeds from news agencies, DSNGs and flyways downlink via portable 3G backpack units. It also features frame synchronisers, RF cable modulator distribution and a live 3G portable video unit receiving server. There is a provision for both tape and tapeless card based VTRs, hard disk based record and playout devices, IRDs and decoders.

“All of these solutions have been provided by in-house experts of MediaGuru. We chose the vendors in consultation with the TVC management, with overall responsibility owned by MediaGuru,” points out Sanjay Salil, Managing Director of MediaGuru.

No doubt, it was a challenge for the company to operate in Africa.

“Working in Africa was challenging. For one, the distance between our base, in India and the project site in Lagos in Nigeria posed a challenge. Secondly, the project was done from scratch, starting from the infrastructure, going on to HVAC, workflow, manpower, training, integration, and commissioning. All of these tasks required a large number of domain expert manpower throughout.

“Thirdly, it required a thorough recruitment process and training of local manpower as there wasn’t experienced manpower available, this being the first of-its-kind project in the country.”

It’s an HD ready channel that consists of multi-format studios, EFP and ENG camera.

Sushil Khanna, Director of Operations at MediaGuru, explains: “We have incorporated a state-of-the-art tapeless workflow that expands support for MOS-compliant newsroom computer system with unique integration benefits, such as the ability to preview both video clips and updating Vizrt graphics templates from within the newsroom client video asset proxies that are stored on the online storage and DIVA tape archive. It also offers cross-platform Mac and Windows client support, and has a cost-effective licensing structure.”

The station format was DVCPRO25 but its facility is designed to support various file formats. The existing data was migrated and transcoded from different formats to a native house format. The station uses multi-level metadata.

The TVC News facility is fully scalable with room for expansion. This facility is designed to incorporate future studios and playout facility. The cost of add-on channels will be reduced in the future because a provision for expansion has been made in the project right from the start.

Further expansion is underway to add bureaux and representative setups for news gathering in a number of countries strategic to Africa in terms of news.

Stuart Young, Director of News and Programmes at TVC News says: “Our future plans are under review but we do intend to take many of our programmes ‘on the road’, being produced and presented from around Africa, with local input from personalities and ordinary people from their own locale.

“Eventually, we would hope to establish mini broadcast centres at our major bureaux, such as Johannesburg, Nairobi and Cairo, allowing our own reporters as well as invited guests to take part in live interaction with Lagos.”