The 2009 UK County Council and European Parliament elections provided a communication challenge for the BBC that was met by the use of Trilogy intercom systems distributed at a number of locations in the UK and across Europe.
Trilogy engineers installed a solution consisting of a number of large matrix intercoms linked together to provide comprehensive communications to all of the studios and other locations involved in the election coverage. The nature of the election process means that there are many sites, all of which could report results at any time. This makes it difficult to plan a running order and so communications takes on a critical role.
Trilogy intercoms are well known for delivering robust, highest quality communications and have built up an enviable reputation within the broadcast industry. Indeed these systems have been facilitating election programming since 1999 when the SCAR was initially equipped with its own dedicated Commander system.
In early 2009 the BBC was supplied with Mercury IP Intercom products to complement its existing Commander and Orator digital matrix intercoms. This was to facilitate coverage of the ‘Race for the White House’. The new units allowed for the connection of multiple systems over an ADSL network allowing the broadcast studio in Washington to be connected to the studio sites in London throughout the US Presidential election.
Following on from this success the challenge this time was to connect together their various intercom assets around the UK and Europe over an IP network to create a real-time communications solution for the UK County Council and European Parliament elections which took place in early June 2009.
The Mercury Interface Unit (MIU) is a rack mounted 2U device that can accommodate up to 32 individual IP channels
Trilogy engineers installed and configured a solution consisting of a number of large matrix intercoms linked together to provide comprehensive communications to all of the studios and other locations involved in the election coverage. The nature of the election process means that there are many sites, all of which could report results at any time. This makes it difficult to plan a running order and so communication takes on a critical role.
During normal operations eight Commander systems operate throughout the news studios and are linked back to the SCAR (Spur Central Apparatus Room) which routes all audio/video feeds. For the duration of the elections the SCAR is aided by a temporary extension referred to as the Hub. Having combined the audio and video in the SCAR, all of the individual feeds are passed as packages into the Hub. In the Hub operators monitor all of the sources identifying which locations will soon have something worthy of inclusion in the broadcast. In addition, within Studio N9, the primary location for the broadcast, analysts examine incoming data looking for trends and predictions that can be put forward for inclusion in the programming.
The BBC has a significant number of Trilogy’s Commander systems. These include a 6 frame, 576 port system installed permanently in the SCAR aided, for the duration of the elections, by two 96 port Commander systems temporarily situated in the Hub. The Commander systems are installed to provide instant, high quality audio communications between N9, the SCAR, the Hub and also studios N8 and N6 which were broadcasting BBC World and BBC News 24 respectively. BBC World and BBC News 24 were also opting in and out of the output feed from studio N9. All three studios were equipped with 96 port Commander systems delivering complete flexibility in all aspects of the election coverage.
Incoming feeds to the SCAR included a significant number of OB trucks and numerous regional studios. Another important feed to the SCAR was Jeremy Vine, the election coverage stalwart, who was located away from Television Centre in a ‘state of the art’ virtual studio which allowed for whatever on-screen graphics the director required.