Reunited: KYW Radio is Back Home

June 10, 2014


If you grew up in Philadelphia as I did, you almost certainly listened to “all news all the time” on KYW Newsradio and watched “Eyewitness News” on sister station KYW (TV), which pioneered that program.

Community Affairs Reporter Cherri Gregg recording in the showcase production studio with the waveform of KYW''s ubiquitous Newsradio jingle etched on the surface. Talk about acoustical glass!


These local broadcast institutions cohabited for 54 years at historic studios on Independence Mall downtown. In 2007, the stations moved to new, separate facilities. But last year, Wes Spencer, vice president of field services at CBS, challenged the teams at these venerable stations to recombine facilities — and to do it in a way that created real synergy for these news powerhouses.

Anchor Wally Kennedy delivers his cast in “Studio Y,” one of two mirrored on-air studios with a view of Philadelphia''s Ben Franklin Bridge spanning the Delaware river. Titus Plexiglas and Yellowtec Litt indicators glow blue for On-Air and red for On-Mic.


As long-term systems integrator, Radio Systems was once again tapped to wire the plant. In my first meetings with CBS Vice President of Engineering Glynn Walden, who has overall responsibility for the Philadelphia cluster of CBS radio stations, I vowed that the technical plant would reflect this same synergy, and got his support.

Click to enlarge

The TV facility was a massive 45,000 square feet and occupied an entire floor. Still, finding space for all the new radio plant (shown in color) took art and planning. For a larger version, visit RadioMagOnline.com.


“Embedded” Reporting

Any broadcast project, even one involving only radio gear, can bring on nightmares of format conversion, non-matching pin-outs and grounding problems, as anyone who has wired a station can attest. Dueling formats and dueling manufacturers will make the job a challenge, especially in an all-news environment where 90 percent of aired material is produced locally and is truly up to the minute.

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So imagine the added complications of establishing dependable, full-time links between the radio and TV news gear, our “prime directive” from CBS.

Each of the 21 reporters'' desks features a mixing station and screen-based access to SAS router audio, AVT THipPro phone callers, Burli Newsroom software and facility-wide video.


KYW Newsradio''s new home is with KYW TV-3, in the nation''s first built-from-the-ground-up, all-digital HD facility. It is in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, just about 20 blocks from their old location.

At the TV station, audio is routed via multiple Harris Platinum video switchers that “embed” their audio with the digital video signals. Therefore, if the radio and central equipment rooms were going to interchange audio, we had to consider more than just synchronization. We had to add pictures to, and subtract images from, the radio audio so signals could be recognized and routed throughout the large TV plant.

Frankly, this part of the job seemed technically daunting and beyond the budget of a radio station integration team. But shake any TV engineering department hard enough and some old radio aficionados and chiefs will drop out. I didn''t have to shake hard.

Enter Marc Musgrove, director of broadcast operations and engineering, and Michael Scharf, chief engineer. Marc recommended and even provided a CAD layout of a design using affordable audio-video embedding and de-embedding cards. Mike provided color bars replete with “KYW Audio” that the cards embed with the radio station''s audio. That way, our audio looked perfectly familiar to the video routers and to the master control operators, who can punch it up as needed.

The engineering team wanted KYW''s radio reporters to have the advantage of seeing who they were talking to on the TV side, as this audio sometimes came to them with a “free” feed video available. So we enhanced the reporters'' audio stations at each desk with a small TV monitor. Again, the TV plant was relied on for distribution as they added these eight video feeds to their in-house MATV system. Now every reporter can select video at his or her own desk to supplement and enhance interaction with a TV audio news feed.

A wall in the radio equipment room is devoted to StudioHub+ tie-lines to every studio and editor''s and reporter''s position.


POTS via SIP

By the way, CBS wanted to assure that every audio management area — the six standalone studios as well as the 21 work stations serving reporters and editors — would have access to field reports and interviews still filed via plain ol'' telephone service, or POTS. Unwilling to reinvest in old analog hybrid technology in this fully HD facility, Walden specified that the system be VoIP-based and SIP-capable.

During our discussions about reprogramming the Sierra Automated Systems 32KD audio matrix for the new facility, our friends at SAS pointed us to a German-made product called the AVT Magic THipPro that provided sufficient capacity and the screen-based user interface that we needed for use on crowded reporters'' desks.

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Excited to try a new alternative, we also were apprehensive about using a foreign-made and -supported product for mission-critical work. But Wolfgang Peters, sales manager of AVT, provided fabulous support, explaining and customizing screens until the system performed exactly as we wanted. Maybe it''s just that they don''t sleep in Germany; but despite the seven-hour time difference, Wolfgang was always available.

Two of Raritan''s largest KVM routers provide a 32x96 matrix of servers to be viewed and controlled throughout the facility.


The unexpected challenge of using THipPro system came not from the hardware but from network issues. SIP is delivered via the Internet, while KYW had no experience with a SIP provider. CBS firewalls are designed to do their job well, so it took a coalition of corporate network personnel, our Sprint SIP provisioning team and onsite IP personnel to (literally) open the right ports.

Looking Our Best

We encountered another revelation: With the TV and radio newsrooms combined, and with all operations visible on daily newscasts, everything had to look great. The fit, finish and color schemes all had to match.

This presented particular challenges for lead architect Rafael Utrera of 119 Degrees architects, who responded with multiple 3D renderings to visualize the studios and sightlines till all trades and media interests were satisfied. Radio editors need a clear operational view of monitors, reporters and studios; but the backs of these editing stations must look good on camera.

Blackmagic Design card frames in TV''s central control room embed and de-embed radio audio feeds to and from digital video feeds.


The construction work had to take place in or near the live TV newsroom of a major-market station producing six local news broadcasts a day; Dave Korzuch of Korz Construction threaded his work around the broadcast day and, with the addition of a few temporary walls and guard rails, managed the entire four-month construction project without an on-air mishap.

The process of fitting KYW into CBS 3''s existing space without disrupting TV workflow (or the aforementioned camera shots) took months of planning and horse-trading. Today, the radio air studios look as though they''ve always occupied the windowed wall across from the reporters'' area, and that the production studio forever adorned the far lobby visible down the long hall from the entrance.

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To furnish the studio spaces, KYW relied on its long-term studio furniture supplier, Studio Technology. The company''s owner Vince Fiola was involved from the start with furniture layouts that managed to accommodate anchors, co-hosts and guests, incorporating various sight lines as well as access to the growing number of computer and TV monitors (the beautiful and flexible Yellowtec M!ka monitor and mic arm system was a big help too). When the radio equipment room racks needed access to the existing raised floor, Studio Technology built us a raised system that provided a pathway.

While we sweated these new sub-systems, KYW''s trusted core vendors from SAS consoles, Burli Newsroom software and Broadcast Electronics AudioVault automation drew readily on their experiences with KYW to reutilize what had worked in the past for this complex operation and at the same time innovate with their newest software and programming to fit the new space and operation.

Countdown to Cut-Over

Most gear was plucked and reutilized from the prior location. StudioHub+, a plug-and-play CAT-5 wiring system, allowed for its fast reconnection; often, only an overnight was available. The wiring system is made by my company, Radio Systems; but even StudioHub+ couldn''t buy us all the time we needed to move an operation of this size and complexity while it was on-air.

Delays did inevitably crop up in getting all systems back online. Here, KYW''s veteran engineers, news directors, editors, anchors and reporters emerged as real heroes (all 70-plus staff members — this is a big operation!). In the tradition of CBS and Edward Murrow, and supported by Program and Digital News Directors Steve Butler and Bill Roswell, everyone improvised and innovated as needed until the facility came fully online.

A seamless cutover is never easy. Ken Nurse, KYW''s studio and IT engineer, got a major assist with the process from the Comcast metro fiber Layer 2 network he helped design and install years before. This WAN connected all eight of the CBS radio and studios and transmitter sites in the Philadelphia market, and early on Kenny added the TV facility to the network; thus subsystems could be joined in slowly and concurrently before cutover.

For instance, the AudioVault backup server was moved over prior to the cutover; it was able to conform to new audio files over the network and remain up to date and ready for use the moment we cut. Also thanks to this design, the critical transmitter links never really changed at all; IP audio links simply were allowed to rejoin the network once moved to their new home.

At 6:15 the night we cut over, someone remembered that we''d overlooked the Comcast cable audio feed that KYW used in the old building to air the audio portion of the “CBS Evening News” at 6:30. Options, including forgoing this popular feature on the first night, were frantically thrown about until someone thought to just dial it up from the StudioHub+ Tie-Lines on the video feeds in TV master control just down the hall. We did, and it sounded just great.

Now technically, it doesn''t get any more synergetic than that!

Equipment List

� Degrees Architectural design and management
■AVT Magic THipPro VoIP broadcast phone system
■Blackmagic Design video embedders and de-embedders
■Broadcast Electronics AudioVault digital automation
■Burli Newsroom System
■Korz Construction general contracting and construction
■Radio Systems: StudioHub+ broadcast wiring solutions and systems integration
■Raritan KVM solutions
■SAS broadcast consoles and studio systems
■Studio Technology broadcast furniture
■Titus Technological Laboratories on-air light fixtures
■Yellowtec M!ka mounting arms and Litt signaling devices

Braverman is president of Radio Systems Inc.


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