BBC Technology has developed a private cloud-based virtual local radio station built on commodity IT.
Developed in collaboration with BBC Local Radio, the project has a shared infrastructure that can be accessed remotely by editorial and production staff at local radio stations.
Audio files are stored, streamed, mixed and processed at a remote datacentre in real-time, but can be accessed at each local radio station by editorial staff, who have control of the play-out system.
Radio Northampton is the first of an initial four BBC stations (Radio Suffolk, Essex, and Three Counties Radio are the others) to be equipped with the latest in-studio capabilities that could substantially reduce the cost and time of a typical local radio station upgrade.
Updating the BBC’s 39 local radio stations using traditional technology would have been both expensive and slow, taking between six to eight months per station. However, by sharing infrastructure and equipment across multiple sites, the BBC said it could substantially reduce costs and the time needed to refresh a single station to roughly eight weeks.
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Virtual stations can be updated centrally and simultaneously at the datacentre, eliminating a time-consuming and costly manual visit to each local station.
BBC Technology said the system could cut property and energy costs for some stations in the future, as less physical space, power and cooling would be required at the local station for onsite backroom equipment.
Virtual local radio stations should also offer better audio quality as audio files remain in the same format throughout. The BBC said this would give listeners “noticeable improvements” in sound quality.
The system also provides social media management tools enabling Twitter, text and Facebook messages to be aggregated and cleared for broadcast on the same screen that manages the phone and Skype calls from the audience.
Phase one of the project has now gone live at Radio Northampton. Radio Suffolk, Essex and Three Counties Radio are expected to follow over the next nine months.
As Computer Weekly reported in June, the BBC has set up a central group of IT delivery team, security architects, lawyers, infrastructure experts and user communities to manage the purchase and use of cloud computing at the organisation.