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RCF network invests in Axia

The French language Christian radio recently upgraded its console

This summer, radio station RCF Liège started broadcasting from its new studios. Two on-air studios, a production studio and an interview studio provide a professional, future-proof configuration, and consolidate the station’s commitment to Axia, notes Marc Maes

With over 60 stations and 250 frequencies in France and Belgium, the RCF network (that’s Radio Chrétienne Francophone – French language Christian radio – not to be confused with the Italian speaker manufacturer!) has a daily audience reach of over 500,000 listeners. RCF was founded in Lyon in 1985, and has been serving its mission of Christian radio station ever since, offering a full service programme. The network is financed by media activities, partnership and audience donations.

In Belgium, RCF operates three stations in Liège, Brussels and Namur – the latter covering both the Namur and Bastogne area. Since 2006, RCF commissioned the integration and installation of their Belgian radio studios to WNM Audiovisual Solutions.

“In May, we were asked to refurbish and upgrade the RCF Liège on-air landscape,” explains Maxime Van Gorp, sales manager with WNM. “Four new studios, equipped with Axia consoles and connected via Livewire+.”

The new studio configuration is built around Axia PowerStation console engines serving Axia Element consoles. “We could have opted for the newer Axia Fusion desks, but since we had put in one Element console before we preferred to remain with the Element series and have three identical consoles benefiting the user-friendliness of the studios,” says Baptiste Mohr, WNM project manager. “The fourth room, for production and interviews is equipped with an Axia virtual mixer. We put in place Audiotechnica microphones and Genelec 8020 series studio monitors. The interview rooms share an analogue Eela Audio EA915X telephone hybrid, the on air studios use a digital Telos ONE plus ONE hybrid, all controlled by the Axia console.”

In view of the future option to have ‘visual radio’, RCF opted for DAVID Systems Turbo Player play-out software. The on-air studio’s are equipped with Sound4 IP Connect. “This tool facilitates the interchange of audio-sources between the Liège studio and our studios in Brussels,” Mohr adds.

“The big advantage of Axia is the Livewire+ feature – instead of having to install analogue cables in all studios, or multiple cables for AES digital signal, we now have one network cable connecting the PowerStation units, with Livewire+ linking all sources. This allows RCF to use either one of the interview rooms as extension of the on-air studios, and a swift interchange of audio sources, and programme files between the studios,” continues Mohr.

“The Livewire+/Axia configuration adds to our flexibility,” echoes Christophe Brüls, technical director of RCF Liège. “Our broadcast licence stipulates that we should air 70% of locally produced content. But the 13.00 and 18.00 hours international news bulletins are inserted directly from our French headquarters in Lyon – and in the afternoon, the vesper (or evensong) prayers are broadcasted from Lourdes. All audio sources are channelled through Livewire+.”

The radio output signal is routed via IP to a Deva Broadcast DB9000 audio codec. The Deva’s output is channelled to a Telos Omnia One antenna processor and connected via an MPX connector to the FM-transmitter on the Liège citadel (fortress).

Another innovation with RCF Liège, and a Belgian first for the RCF stations, is the introduction of a compact “mobile kit”. “This lightweight solution will be used for broadcasts from chapels, churches and religious events,” explains Mohr. The kit consists of an AETA Scoopy+ HD and the big advantage is the integrated 3G card holder allowing direct mobile network access alongside an ISDN connection. There’s also a Yamaha 01V96i digital mixer, a Tascam DD-CR 200 CD reader, Audio-Technica microphones and Beyerdynamic DT790 headphones, DI boxes and cabling.

In addition to the upgrade of the Liège studio, WNM is, at press time, replacing part of RCF Brussel’s on-air configuration. Alongside the DAVID Systems play-out software, the Brussels studio also uses Sound4 IP Connect. “We can easily transfer programme content from one studio to another, with direct import in the Axia consoles. The next step is that we set up, via Sound4, a remote control option between the main Liège on-air studio and the Brussels studio. This option will undoubtedly bring RCF to a professional level and axe the cost of ISDN lines and codecs,” explains Mohr.

Brüls adds that the investments in the Belgian stations boost RCF’s functionality and programming abilities. “Our maximum capacity in Liège is nine microphones on-air, which is less than the national broadcasters, but our technology lifts us in the premier league,” he says.

Pictures: Top: Christophe Bruls, Patrick Tchouta (engineer) and journalist/presenter Eric Cooper. Second: RCF main studio from where technician’s work. Third: Christophe Bruls. Last: RCF Liege interview room.