South Africa’s Spescom offers TV in a box for US$370,000 aimed at community TV stations


With the relaxation of broadcasting laws, a number of community TV transmission licences have been issued. Come 2012 and the introduction of Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) in South Africa, the demand for community TV stations is expected to rise sharply.

The biggest barrier to entry, however, remains the cost of establishing a broadcast operation. Spescom Media IT, a veteran in the provision of broadcasting solutions, has come up with a unique offering: a solution incorporating a selection of best of breed equipment and systems that provides full broadcasting capabilities - starting at mere R3 million (US$378,000) rather than the R20 - R30 million normally required.

Says Sean du Toit, Managing Director of Spescom Media IT: "With the appearance of new regional players such as Tshwane TV and Cape TV, combined with the shrinking of the larger broadcaster's budgets as the global economic crises makes itself felt locally, the demand for low cost studio infrastructure has increased. The introduction of DTT in 2012 is expected to intensify this demand. DTT will provide more channels and better quality picture and sound, typically requiring HD content. It is, however, expected that the broadcasters granted one of the few 16-channel DTT licences will be required to support a high percentage of community stations.

The Spescom Media IT "TV station-in-a-box" package includes three Sony XDCam EX high definition cameras, a Ross' CrossOver HD studio mixer, Miller camera pedestals and PlayBox Technology's playout solution. Du Toit explains the reasoning supporting this combination of technologies: "A typical studio, such as a news studio, will require three HD cameras, video editing and audio final mix facilities, a server transmission system with automation for playout. In addition, an electronic news gathering (ENG) kit would be required for external news gathering, interviews and footage. This usually comprises a tripod, lights, camera, microphone and lapel mike. The technology that Spescom Media IT has selected for inclusion in the package, although entry level, meets all these requirements."

The package allows a TV station, depending on the physical building requirements, to be up and running within six weeks. Says Du Toit: "Spescom Media IT can provide a turnkey solution, from site assessment to design, diagrams, implementation and commissioning, and training of staff. It's not only our technical expertise but our keen understanding of operational and workflow requirements - and knowledge of how the industry works - that enables us to provide solutions that meet practical needs and budgets."

The 'TV station in box' is designed to enable operations to easily scale up and out. "As a station's operations expand, its needs will change," explains Du Toit, "and we have taken this into consideration. Whether a station wants to add more editing suites or boost shared storage capacity or even add a new studio, the 'TV station in a box' technologies offer suitable upgrade paths. In addition, they are built on open standards that allow integration to other technologies.