Michel Leduc is the Manager, Media Engineering, within CBC/Radio-Canada’s French Productions group. He joined CBC/Radio-Canada in 1988 as a Project Manager in the Engineering Group (EHQ). He has worked on many radio and TV projects, such as Studio 71-72 and 76 (TV audio post-production) update, the Avid post-production suites, and Studio 14-16 (radio audio post-production) in Montreal; as well as many radio and TV studios in the Toronto Broadcast Centre, the RCI project, etc. He was promoted to Manager in September 2001. Since then, he has been responsible for most of the radio and TV post-production projects for the French network, including projects like Radio Centralisation.
Sanjeev Kharbanda is the Manager, Media Engineering, within CBC/Radio-Canada’s Media Operations & Technology group in Toronto. He is responsible for the implementation of Radio, TV, and Digital projects within the English Services. He has been employed with CBC/Radio-Canada since 1988 and has worked on many projects, including Radio Centralisation, the DaletPlus & Avid rollout, Radio studios, and the like.
Philippe Aubé, P.Eng, MBA, began his career with CBC/Radio-Canada in 1999 as a Technical Supervisor, Transmission Operations for the Maritime Provinces. In 2005, Philippe moved to Halifax and became Project Engineer, Atlantic region, for CBC/Radio-Canada’s Transmission Engineering division. Since 2009, Philippe has been working out of Montreal as Senior Manager for the Transmission Engineering division. Philippe is a graduate of the University of Moncton, NB in Electrical Engineering (1999) and also has a Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS (2008).
Jean-Marc Gellatly, is the Director, French Services Media Presentation, within CBC/Radio-Canada’s French Productions group. He is responsible for content delivery to French-speaking audiences across Canada. Jean-Marc and his team are currently completing the consolidation of all MCR activities and technology (Radio, TV, and Digital) into a single, integrated, Media Presentation Centre located in Montreal. A broadcast professional with over twenty-five years of operations experience, he joined CBC/Radio-Canada in 2005.
Scott Stewardson is the Director, English Services Media Presentation, within CBC/Radio-Canada’s Media Operations & Technology group in Toronto. He is responsible for the integrated and centralised Radio, TV, and Digital Media Presentation Centre located in the Toronto Broadcast Centre. Over the past two years, Scott and his team have implemented technology and workflows that allow for the delivery of content to Canadian audiences when and how they want to see and hear it. Scott’s background also includes leadership opportunities in TV and Radio Production, Engineering, Technological Maintenance, and he was formerly the Plant Manager at CBC Vancouver.
Prior to May 31, 2011, CBC/Radio-Canada’s Radio presentation relied on program origination within the network centres, Toronto and Montreal, supported by numerous regional presentation centres, each with its own automation system. Radio distribution to feed the presentation signal to hundreds of CBC/Radio-Canada-owned transmitters was based on an expensive complex network of satellite and terrestrial circuits leased from common carriers. These terrestrial contracts were expiring in 2011 and, as most of the terrestrial carrier infrastructure was reaching the end of its life, unreliable, and required substantial capital investment by the carriers, it was expected that either the carriers would not renew some portions of the terrestrial contracts or they would charge higher amounts to operate these networks.
Additionally, CBC/Radio-Canada started distributing content using newer channels, such as live Web streams that required all regional content to be back-hauled to Toronto for centralised distribution to Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). In the case of English Radio, this was accomplished by deploying low-cost MP3 encoders (Barix) in the regions to encode regional programming to MP3 and send that programming to a pair of redundant IceCasts servers in Toronto, prior to forwarding them to the Abacast CDN for Web streaming.
Therefore, a study was commissioned to carry out a cost/benefit analysis of continuing with decentralised presentation versus reconfiguring our Radio presentation systems to take advantage of Centralised Presentation and satellite distribution, similar to what was done for Television in 2001. The cost/benefit analysis clearly indicated that, due to the extensive capital investment that would be required in the regions to modernise the Presentation infrastructure, plus the anticipated increase in terrestrial contract costs, it was preferable to proceed with a Centralised Presentation with satellite distribution. Based on the results of this study, both English & French Radio Networks agreed to proceed with centralcasting projects.
CBC/Radio-Canada’s Centralisation model consists of gathering the regional live content and transferring the pre-packaged program files to Network Presentation Centres (in Toronto & Montreal) using our Next Generation Converged Network (NGCN). These Network Presentation Centres integrate programming so that it can be uplinked to satellite and distributed directly to transmitters. In the interest of facilitating things in case of disaster recovery, it was agreed that the signal would be downlinked to large plants, such as Vancouver, Calgary, and the like, and content would be distributed to main transmitters using local loops.
Now that the content is centrally available in Network Centres, it can be presented from those locations to alternative distribution platforms, such as Web streaming, On-Demand, etc.
Approval and implementation of the NGCN project paved the way for Centralised Presentation, as it allowed for easy transferring of live content from all Regional sites back to Network Centres Toronto and Montreal. Attached is a high-level map of NGCN networks.
The yellow boxes represent the thirteen core sites to which branch sites and all other types of sites connect.
The system architecture employed for both the English and French Centralisation projects was the result of close coordination between the English and French Engineering groups and took around two years to implement. Lawo Nova 73 routers with Virtual Studio Manager (VSM) control systems are installed as the main routing infrastructure for both Toronto and Montreal. Lawo routers support Digital Signal Processing (DSP) functionality to allow for remote metering, audio fades, and signal detection including silence detection on every source and destination. This single router, with a maximum supported capacity of 4,000 x 4,000 stereo, replaces multiple routers used previously, including Presentation, Monitoring, Production, Apology, External faders, Hotline, etc.
The VSM control system consists of main and backup VSM servers, with an additional VSM server as an emergency backup, and it is supporting a plethora of virtual panels, such as Alarm Status, Alarm Processing, XY, Apology, Metering, and the like.
When the Radio Centralisation project was approved, Montreal had already upgraded their Harris automation system to the latest version, whereas Toronto was still using an older version of Harris automation. Consequently, as a part of the Radio Centralisation project, Montreal added additional busses to their Harris automation system, and Toronto decided to deploy Miranda iTX as an integrated Radio & Television automation system.
All the main parts of the system are mirrored (Automation, the Lawo router, VSM, Avocent KVM, and the Dalet workstations) and the backup systems are always ready to take over if one part of the main system should go down. The mirror systems are installed in different locations within the relevant plants to prevent downtime resulting from fire or flooding. A “cold” VSM emergency server is installed to minimise downtime in case of virus attack.
Toronto’s Automation System consists of the Miranda iTX automated play-out system, which is an integrated system deployed for both Radio and TV Presentation in Toronto. The Miranda iTX play-out system operates on a standard IT platform and it provides automation, a play-out server, branding/CG, a Master Control Switcher/DVE, and Video/Audio Processing functionality for all presentation channels.
Montreal’s Automation System consists of a Harris Series 8200 configured with two Masters and three pairs of device automation, capable of supporting up to twenty-four Dalet workstations and up to 225 On Air destinations (Busses). In addition, a dedicated KVM system has been provided, with twenty-one monitoring stations used by up to fifteen KVM users simultaneously.
Distribution Infrastructure (Transmission)
The Radio Centralisation project required extensive upgrades to existing Transmission infrastructure in Toronto and Montreal to support the expanded audio uplink channel capacity and provide the capability at transmitter sites to be able to directly downlink the satellite feeds.
In the case of the English Services, a brand new uplink facility was installed in Toronto with four fully redundant C-band High Power Amplifiers (HPAs) and one fully redundant Ku-band HPA, complete with required modulators and up-converters. A new 75kVA Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) and associated electrical gear were installed to power the encoding room on the sixth floor and the HPA room on the tenth floor.
Major upgrades were also completed on the Cisco encoding platform in order to multiplex 75 radio feeds (Radio One and Radio Two) on a C-band uplink. In addition, a new Audio-over-IP Ku-band uplink system was designed and installed as a cost-effective method to provide fifteen Radio feeds to approximately 80 low power AM and FM transmitter sites.
To receive Presentation feeds, over 400 Cisco D9850 receivers were installed at various transmitter sites. Furthermore, approximately 30 4.5m C-band satellite receiver dishes and approximately 80 1.8m Ku-band dishes were installed at transmission sites that were previously fed using terrestrial circuits.
In the case of the French services, a major expansion of the uplink room in Montreal was carried out to support new fully redundant HPAs, modulators, and up-converters. Furthermore, major upgrades were done to the Cisco/SA encoding platform in order to multiplex approximately 60 radio feeds (Première Chaîne and Espace Musique) on C-band uplink. No Ku-band radio uplink facilities were installed for the French Services.
To receive Presentation feeds, in excess of 200 Cisco D9850 receivers were installed at various transmitter sites. In addition, approximately 30 4.5m C-band satellite receiver dishes were installed at transmission sites that were previously fed using terrestrial circuits.
In addition, a 4.5m C-band satellite receiver dish and a 1.8m Ku-band satellite receiver dish have been installed at the National Alarm Centre (NAC) in Ottawa to monitor our satellite signals.
System Management (Operations)
From an operations standpoint, the centralised distribution model jointly adopted by English and French Radio Networks was a major departure from the previous fifty-odd year old decentralised distribution model. In fact, for the first time in the Corporation’s history, all Radio network control and monitoring was consolidated in one place. Since both the French and the English Services adopted the same philosophy, technology, and methodology at the same time, it ensured continued coherence across CBC/Radio-Canada and allowed all Canadians to better benefit from our diversity of content and ever-growing range of services.
The fact that Radio was already a tapeless medium using Dalet as the primary Desktop Radio tool, coupled with the parallel deployments of both the new NGCN (digital network provided by Rogers) and an integrated digital routing and control system (LAWO/VSM) in our Master Control Room (MCR), provided all of the necessary ingredients to allow us to reinvent how we distribute our Radio to our audiences.
Whereas the Network Centres in Toronto and Montreal previously had an extremely limited view of regional insertions and control over them, and said control relied on an ad-hoc variety of providers and technology; the Network Centres now have complete control and monitoring of all distribution over the entire Network. This was made possible largely thanks to the integration of IP technology in the Broadcast environment. It became possible for the Network Centres to monitor and manage regional sources as though they were local studios with seamless and instantaneous turnaround of specific contents and sources to designated transmitters and markets.
A non-linear approach to monitoring and control (Monitoring by Exception), which relies on systematic automated measurement of content and equipment on all critical paths and nodes, and assists operators by informing them instantly of faulty conditions in any specific delivery path towards any of French Radio’s more than 200 and English Radio’s more than 400 radio transmitter sites. All of these transmitter sites now receive their content through an addressable multiplexed satellite source rather than terrestrially. This new paradigm greatly reduced the efforts required to communicate and coordinate multiple play-out/distribution schedules between the Network Centres and Regions, and allows the operators, in collaboration with our NAC, to focus strictly on resolving critical on-air issues, thereby significantly reducing service restoration delays. In short, the systems now monitor network health on a constant basis, and this frees up precious resources to perform value-added tasks rather than tying them up by monitoring the “old-fashioned” way; i.e., with ears on everything!
CBC Radio Presentation in Toronto undertook an additional centralised and integrated challenge by introducing the Miranda iTX Presentation automation system. The Miranda iTX presentation system is common within Media Presentation (TV, Radio, and Digital); it is one system serving content to all of our audience. The interface with the Traffic Plus traffic system and the Dalet Plus content generation system is key to the success of the project.
CBC Radio Presentation is fully integrated in the CBC Media Presentation Centre, which houses all content delivery disciplines within one functioning facility. This has allowed us to further develop integrated MCR duties, delivery monitoring duties, and supervisory duties.
Radio Centralisation has maximised our flexibility to centralise content and target existing and new distribution channels – transmitters, Web streams, VOD, etc. – to best suit our shifting audience needs, in line with the needs and goals of a “Content Company”.
Overall, the Centralisation project has produced significant Capital and Operations cost savings by reducing the distributed technical infrastructure in the regions (presentation routers, automation systems, loggers, and the like). Moreover, given the constant, twenty-four-hour staffing of technical personnel, the Montreal and Toronto Network Presentation Centres allow for better control and monitoring of our distribution channels. Monitoring, communications, facility sustainability, and overall awareness are much more consistent and reliable. Technology was indeed the enabler but vision, technological implementation, and our staff’s ability to fundamentally change their approach to Presentation are the factors that have made this project a success.