Ohio’s WLIO Upgrades Utah Scientific Routing System

WLIO, a Block Communications station in Lima, Ohio, currently relies on Utah Scientific routing and master control for multichannel HD broadcast of four major networks — NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox — from a single 12-foot by 20-foot control room in a unique facility that has been in operation since 1953. Previously only an NBC affiliate, WLIO added the three new channels last summer and renovated its technical infrastructure to accommodate them. The renovation included replacement of a 20-year-old Utah Scientific analog routing system and switcher with the new Utah router and master control.

Utah Scientific worked with WLIO to customize two features. “Emergency Join” allows breaking news to be broadcast on all four stations, and a bypass of the automated emergency alert system (EAS) to enable the WLIO meteorologist to give his own weather updates. In addition, WLIO uses the Utah Scientific system’s master/slave feature to slave one station to another for news, weather, sports, elections, breaking news, and other public service functions.

The Utah Scientific system, based on a UTAH-400/288-frame router (loaded 144×144) and four MCP-2020 control panels, has allowed WLIO to set up four unique operating positions, each customized for the user’s preferences. While other stations throughout the United States are using digital master control for subchannels, WLIO is unusual in deploying the system to air the Big Four major networks. And because each Utah Scientific MCP-2020 control panel can handle 10 channels, the system gives WLIO plenty of room to take on more content, either locally generated or coming from other network program streams.

“Looking at master control from several vendors, we had the operators come in and listen to the sales pitches, look at the equipment, and try it out,” says Frederick Vobbe, corporate director of engineering for Block Communications. “After that, they overwhelmingly said the Utah Scientific panels were the most intuitive and easiest to operate. And now that the system has been in place for a few months, everybody is thrilled with it.”

Because WLIO operates in a small market, the reasonable price was a further selling point for the Utah Scientific systems, according to Vobbe. Running four stations from one master control room delivers significant staffing and facility savings, as well.

“WLIO’s new routing system replaces an analog router that I sold Fred more than 20 years ago when I was a Utah Scientific sales representative,” says Tom Harmon, who is today Utah Scientific’s president and CEO. “With that long history, I have a vested interest in the station’s successful expansion and deployment of our routing and master control systems for multichannel broadcast. The WLIO installation offers an outstanding example of how solid technology enables media companies to glean new efficiencies even as they upgrade service to their audience.”

WLIO deploys 34 satellite dishes to pick up content and then records, segments, and prepares-for-air 430 different programs every week. The facility relies on WireReady Automation and ASR (automatic satellite recorder), which interfaces directly with the UTAH-400 router to select the program and satellite dish for recording. For automatic streaming and recording of news for the WLIO website, a dedicated server controls a router output.

A further benefit of Utah Scientific master control at WLIO is the system’s easy-to-use soft panels. Available in news and production edit booths, they enable WLIO staff to route any source into the work area.

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