Bitcentral Joins Its Precis System and Omnibus Automation in ‘Station in Half a Rack’

By Harry A. Jessell

Fred Fourcher wants to reinvent the TV broadcasting singlehandedly, it seems. At the NAB Show, his Bitcentral was pitching technology aimed at eliminating still more people from station operations and at facilitating news sharing among TV stations in a market.

“It’s an entire station for half a million dollars in half a rack,” says Fourcher in describing the station-automation system. “It’s everything you need to run a station from a news production and on-air playout standpoint.”

The system is actually a marriage of Bitcentral’s Precis, which handles news production, and Omnibus’ iTX, which handles master control and playout. Running on off-the-shelf computers, the software-based solutions would be linked through common servers.

Coupled with a newsroom system like AP’s ENPS and Avid’s iNews on the front end and some kind of live new playback system on the back end, Precis would give a station full news-production capability. Meanwhile, iTX would manage spots, promos, and syndicated programming and play them out at the direction of a trafficking system.

The coupling of Precis and iTX was inspired by Del Parks, the chief technologist for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Fourcher said. Sinclair and other groups are now evaluating it, he added.

Fourcher said he believes the Precis-iTX system could go to work today but would probably benefit from further refinements by the two companies.

Fourcher’s other “reinvention” is the Oasis Media Marketplace, which would allow TV stations in a market to pool and share news video.

According to Fourcher, a TV station typically covers 10 or 11 events in a day, and half of those events are also covered by at least one other station in the market.

“Does it make sense for the TV stations to send only one crew the events they are both interested in?” asked Fourcher. “The answer is yes.”

By pooling and sharing, he said, TV stations can either reduce staff or redirect staff to enterprise stories that would distinguish them.

The Oasis Media Marketplace is based on Bitcentral’s Oasis video-archiving and -distribution system.

Stations participating in a news-sharing arrangement would contribute and withdraw stories from the system using the Internet and a browser interface and regulate access through a direct rights-management system.

Stations could also use the system for archiving finished news stories, and restrict their usage to stations outside the market, Fourcher said.

For those not interested in sharing with other stations within their markets, Oasis could be configured for sharing among stations belonging to the same station group, he said.

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