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Dante streamlines US presidential election coverage for BBC World Service

It was used to distribute live radio programming to 250 million listeners, while reducing integration costs

For the US Presidential election on November 8, the BBC World Service established a temporary production and distribution facility within its Washington DC bureau.

The BBC World Service production staff utilised Dante networking from Audinate to manage and deliver live coverage to radio audiences worldwide over the BBC World Service, NPR partner stations, BBC Radio 4 and BBC 5 Live networks (as well as BBC local radio in the UK) – reaching as many as 250 million listeners over a 12-hour period.

The use of Dante by the BBC World Service contrasted with their use of a legacy contribution and distribution architecture for live US presidential election coverage four years ago.

Matthew Page, engineering manager, BBC says: “It’s a big difference when you remove the labour of running hundreds of copper analogue audio circuits. Four years ago, we had three broadcast studios sharing contribution sources, all connected by copper multicores, analogue talkbacks and analogue audio routers to switch mix-minus feeds. That was a lot of equipment and heavy cable, all of which had to be connected on site. This year, we configured most of the equipment in London, then connected it on site with readily available and inexpensive network cabling. We saved hundreds of hours of rigging and testing on location, and thousands of British Pounds overall. It was lightweight enough to mostly carry on the plane, which reduced our shipping costs by 80 per cent.”

The complete system featured 17 Dante-enabled devices including128x128 intercom/IFB, AES & analogue I/O and broadcast mixing consoles, all enabling the distributed routing of hundreds of circuits with built-in redundancy for immediate failover to a secondary network.

Inside the facility, the Dante network supported connectivity between the temporary studio in the basement-level conference room, and smaller studios in the main bureau on the eighth floor. Dante was also used to route over 30 incoming contribution feeds, with associated mix-minus, from various IP and ISDN codecs. The AoIP network provided further efficiency, allowing simple off-the-shelf fiber Ethernet connectivity between thenine floors to be used.

“Once the core infrastructure is in place, it’s very easy to scale. Adding a new studio with access to all the same sources is almost as easy as plugging a few extra network cables between an Ethernet switch and another Dante-enabled mixer and intercom panel,” adds Page. “We had Dante connectivity between our talkback panels in the temporary facility, and our intercom matrix in the main bureau. Dante’s connectivity allowed us to place the talkback panels wherever we wanted, which simplified communication between production staff and all contribution circuits, presenters and guests.”

Dante’s very low latency provided an additional benefit to presenters and guests, allowing each to listen to any live feed available on the audio network on headphones in one ear and studio output in the other without any program delay.