Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Newest Job Killing Consolidation Plan: One Master Control Per Market

Broadcast Union News: Local News Services to eliminate ENG crews by having all the stations in each market share crews, equipment and footage has already decimated broadcasting employment and reduced coverage diversity across the country. Cross ownership and shared services agreements between what used to be competing media outlets in the same market has further reduced diversity and employment.

Now comes the next great job killing idea: One Master Control Per Market

We need to pull together the workers, their unions, community and political activists and work together to stop this corporate greed that is destroying careers and sounding the death knell for a free, diverse, independent American media in the name of increasing short term profits.

Bob Daraio

See the article below.


By Cindy Hutter Cavell

TV stations in a market should band together and and create a facility that would provide centralized play-out services for all of the stations’ multiple program streams.The synergies could be huge, and would not be burdened with the heavy fiber connectivity costs that have discouraged regional and national centralcasting efforts.

We have long used technology to make broadcasting simpler and more cost-efficient. Is it now time to use technology and a change in philosophy to realize a new level of efficiencies with possibly no capital outlay?

Consider what I call market centralcasting or metrocasting. What if all of the stations in a large market were to form an LLC to fund a central facility (either an existing facility or a new, purpose-built one) that provided centralized play-out services for all of the stations’ multiple program streams?

The synergies could be huge, and would not be burdened with heavy fiber connectivity costs. This is not a huge step away from some smaller markets in which one station manages another through LMAs and other contracts.

The landscape of broadcasting is changing faster than ever. Ten years ago, if the concept of metrocasting had been brought to the GMs in any major market, the bearer would have been shown the door — immediately. Today, perhaps, management would be more receptive.

Already, the most competitive aspect of television broadcasting, the local newsrooms, have stuck a toe in the “cooperation waters,” with greater sharing of material — pool cameras, shared news services and shared helicopters.

Perhaps the concept of getting all stations in a market to agree on a company structure is too far-fetched. But suppose an outside company were to build a central playout facility in a market and offered fully staffed services?

Taking advantage of today’s available technology, it is possible to build a plant which is a good deal less complex than a current TV facility with the flexibility to handle most any traffic system (75% of the stations in the country are now using the same traffic system in any case); most any network structure; and any number of playout streams.

Such facilities would be unencumbered with offices, newsrooms, equipment storage and studios. Their only function would be to provide playout facilities.

The stations would no longer have to worry about the nuts and bolts (and pains and headaches) of getting the basic programming to the transmitter, and could concentrate on the things that make them special (and money) — local news, local sales and the brand.

Cindy Hutter Cavell is an engineer and practice manager at Cavell, Mertz & Associates. She has been VP of engineering at several TV stations in the country, and GM at the Fox Sports Net playout center in the Houston area. Her specialty is developing realistic, budget-oriented multicast facilities for groups and TV stations.


This idea has been floated before. The problems are not techncial but competetive. In-market competitors won't want their programming, logs, or priorities intermingled with their peers. This also puts the centralized master control environment at a disadvantage by being constantly scrutinized by paranoid General Management wondering if the needs of station X is being better served than their station. This world works well for cable channels, but call letter stations are a whole different game.  - Howard M. Burgers

And while we're at it, let's replace newscasters with computer-generated cartoons with voice actors in Arizona reading the copy. If we could only figure out how to get rid of those pesky sales people and that horrible woman in accounting- Elliott Mitchell

One market, one ENG van, one camera. - John Willkie

One of the justifications for devoting spectrum to TV is TV's ability to disseminate emergency information widely and with immediacy. There'd be not only a risk to the public safety but a political risk to the TV business in the event of the failure of a common master control site. Having every station in town go dark at once would be frightening, especially at a time of public emergency. Providing alternate STL routing should be figured into the cost of any such plan. - Dennis Brown

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