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March  24,  2011

We are proud to report that an AudioVAULT project helped restore six Tasmania stations to their local markets after 13 years in exile as part of a larger broadcast network.


The long journey home started more than a year earlier, when Tasmanian Broadcasters acquired AM 7AD and Sea-FM licensed to Devonport, AM 7BU and Sea-FM licensed to Burnie, and AM 7SD and Sea-FM licensed to Scottsdale, Tasmania.


More than a decade and two ownership changes ago, the three AMs and three FMs had been removed from their local communities and set down in a single shared studio facility in Launceston. We were told that local programming had all but vanished from Devonport, Burnie and Scottsdale in the name of efficiency. Like so many other stations we hear about, they were swallowed up by a large broadcast network and reduced to little more than icons on a PC screen.   


That was the status quo until Tasmanian Broadcasters took over the stations in 2009, moved them into a refurbished studio facility centrally located in Devonport, and brought in our AudioVAULT digital studio system to reintroduce local programming. 


The plan was to continue sharing resources where it made sense, but to reestablish local news, weather, and other programming that had been cut out 13years prior.


Our own Frank Massa and systems expert and BE representative Peter Warren with Lumina Broadcast Systems, Australia, were brought in to help reestablish the stations. Both had worked with Tasmanian Broadcasters’ parent company, Grant Broadcasters, on similar projects. Grant Broadcasters has installed more than 40 AudioVAULT digital automation systems as one of the largest, most progressive proponents of local radio in Australia. The group wholly owns 29 commercial radio licenses in Australia, with an interest in 35 additional licenses and more than 50 narrowcast licenses. Grant Broadcasters operates almost all of its stations as fully autonomous entities serving their markets of license – even extending that same philosophy to its translators in some cases.


Previously, Massa, Warren and Grant Broadcasters’ Group Engineering Manager John Sandles had configured the AudioVAULT system for a variety of music, talent and individual market needs. In the case of the six stations in northwest Tasmania, they set up one main ingestion point for centralized music archiving and access - the network efficiency part of their plan. They then set up dedicated AudioVAULT workstations with local storage and separate libraries for each station -- the local part they wanted to reintroduce.


But getting the two to coexist – local and network operation –required a little more out of the average automation system. Although the plan was for all six stations to produce local content with little to no advertising in common, they needed to share some programming. Examples include a live morning show shared by the three FMs and another morning show shared by all three AMs.The automation system needed to be able to precisely insert spots specific to each of the three markets, or in some cases to just an AM or FM, similar to a syndicated network operation. An occasional voicetrack originating from a remote location added even more complexity to the operation.


The AudioVAULT’s flexible set up and operation were put to the test once more and succeeded brilliantly with the completion of the entire project in a little over seven weeks. In that time, the group rebuilt three new on-air studios, starting with initial planning and arriving at full on-air operation for six independently networked stations.  


“The way we’ve configured the AudioVAULT is sort of unique. We can at any time insert a local break into that local market, even in a live studio. For example, we’ll have a news bulletin that will go to all three stations, and when you switch to the weather, there can be three voicetracks for each separate market. Then, later in the hour we may have two or three voicetracks that are common to all stations, and another that is specific to that market.  AudioVAULT keeps track of it all and provides for a good level of efficiency,” explained Sandles.


Owing to the AudioVAULT’s flexibility is its ability to schedule based on triggered or timed events well in advance of air but with override controls that make it possible to instantly drop in liners, retrieve audio files and make changes minutes before air. For example, predefined quick-start buttons enable operators to instantly audition audio, position phoners, add in sound effects, and more. 


In addition, the system runs background tasks such as replicating logs and coordinating event timers between workstations to make 24/7 local production even more goof-proof. With local announcers producing a wide variety of content almost 24/7 for their markets, most workstations also have a full suite of AudioVAULT production tools capable of downloading, ripping and editing audio. As for network efficiency, they use AudioVAULT’s FTP tool over IP to shuttle newscasts produced locally at one station but of equal significance to one or more of the six other stations. 


With nine AudioVAULT workstations operating independently yet networked together for sharing resources between all six stations, the group signed on with local programming on December 9. A few weeks later, Tasmanian Broadcasters duplicated its success in Devonport and converted its Launceston studio for an existing FM and a new FM license in the area, again with AudioVAULT at the center of operation.


“Today is a very exciting day for our teams on the north-west coast.7BU-7AD-7SD Classic Hits Tasmania and Sea-FM Northern Tasmania are iconic brands that have been part of their local communities for a number of years and it’s fantastic to see programming come home to the north-west coast,” said Tasmanian Broadcasters’ General Manager Sylvia Sayers, who is responsible for the group’s stations in the northern region. 


We are told that despite the stations’ years in exile, the locals haven’t forgotten the Sea-FM Classic Hits brand and have enthusiastically welcomed their local stations home. 



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