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STUDIO Three days to launch a TV station…? by Neil Hutchins, MD, aQ Broadcast Limited “ We go on-air in less than 100 hours” is an alarming statement when the studio and control room in question contain no technical equipment whatsoever. But this was the situation that we faced upon arrival at the new Local TV channel in Manchester for the first time – as we began to unload the van late on a Thursday afternoon at the end of May, we knew that the station had to go live on Sunday evening, just three days later. And not only did the new channel plan to launch with a live studio show, but it would also have to remain on-air with its own transmission output continuously after that. We have worked on projects with quick turnarounds before, but the speed and scale of this one were quite breath-taking. Of course, the story really began much earlier than that. That’s Media have already launched local channels in Portsmouth and Oxford, although they had only relatively recently taken responsibility for the former ‘Your TV’ licence in Manchester. We, aQ Broadcast, have a great deal of experience of other local launches, including Mustard TV in Norwich, Latest TV in Brighton, Bay TV in Liverpool and Big Centre TV (BCTV) in Birmingham. That’s and aQ had already worked together at ‘That’s Solent’ when it launched in late 2014, so it was an obvious step to consider collaborating again on the ‘That’s Manchester’ project. But there were some signifi cant targets to meet, including a launch date of 31st May – defi ned by Ofcom as a condition of the transition from Your TV to That’s 50 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 104 AUGUST 2015 TV – and the requirement for a single technical solution to meet the entire needs of the whole new station. Discussions actually began about the Manchester launch in late April, but many factors – including having to locate and adapt suitable studio space – meant that the system couldn’t be installed until immediately before the on-air deadline. With such a tight turnaround, it was clear that the only viable approach would be for us to build, confi gure and test a complete system off-site in a wheeled rack, and then simply roll it into location, plug it in and then turn it on. We had used the same method to deliver a system to BCTV successfully within a short timescale earlier this year, but the technical requirements for this new project were rather more complex. Perhaps unlike other Local TV (LTV) stations, That’s Manchester is required by its licence to be on-air twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, primarily with locally-generated content. With such a short window before launch, it was vital that the technical solution would provide fl exible production operation tightly integrated with reliable transmission automation. It was also crucial that the whole system would be easy and straightforward to use, both by larger teams during peak times and by individual operators during early and late shifts. In more general terms, the project required a very wide range of functional elements: