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Forward-thinking PEG station turns to IP-based video system
Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Reorganizing the station

“Local access in the Northeast is a little

different than in most areas of the country,”

says Murphy. “In the Midwest or

South, people kind of accept what the

cable company will give them, whereas

here the towns seem to be more aggressive

in negotiating favorable contracts."

In Andover, residents have also been

very supportive and involved in producing

programming. One local access highlight

is a show called “There’s Something

About Andover,” which offers interviews

and feature stories about local issues,

produced by the town’s senior center.

“They have their own Mac G5 editor that

we bought for them,” Murphy explains.

Also of note are videos produced by

Andover High School’s TV production

class, which uses the station’s studio and

production gear. “Some of their videos

are quite good,” Murphy says.

Andover’s contract with Comcast came

up for renewal at the end of 2007, and

both parties felt it would be better if the

town took over the PEG station’s operations.

As Murphy and program director

Sara Antonakos became AndoverTV

employees, they took on a great deal

more decision making authority. “I do

report to a board of directors,” Murphy

explains, “but we’re a lot more flexible.

For example, it would often take weeks

to get approval to replace a broken DVD

recorder, but now I can just call up my

guy and have one shipped.” About a

year ago Murphy and Andover Public

Schools technology director Ray Tode

began planning how to use the town’s

new fiber-optic backbone for video. The

system, now operational, has provided

significant help in keeping AndoverTV’s

unusual programming within its local-station


Moving to MPEG

Like many PEG stations, AndoverTV produces

programming at meeting sites all

over town, including the local high

school, town hall, the library and the

safety center.

“A lot of cable companies have a copper

intranet, or I-Net, running through town,”

Murphy explains, “which they use for

switching town meetings and other routine

broadcasts. They’ll set it up so one

channel overrides another. You simply

turn on your modulator when the meeting

begins, and when you shut it off, it

defaults back to the first channel.”

The Andover PEG station ran this type of

system for many years, but with the reorganization

they decided they needed

Public access alive and well

in Andover, MA

AndoverTV’s production studio set up for a talk show on the local access channel

The Nexus video server and VSI

encoder in AndoverTV’s studio rack

something better. Chris O'Brien, engineer

at systems integrator Shanahan Sound &

Electronics of Lowell, MA, explains. “If

you’re running a system like this and you

have just one event overriding something

static like a message board, it works fine.

But it becomes a problem when you

have an event in one part of town followed

immediately afterward by something

in another part of town.” At that

point the station would need to set up

two independent feeds and someone in

the control room would switch from one

to the other manually. “Not only was it

cumbersome,” O’Brien notes, “but as the

system aged and with these locations as

much as 10 miles apart, there was a

noticeable breakdown of the signal.”

“Our idea with AndoverTV,” Murphy

explains, “was to leverage the new fiberoptic

IP network to transport all of our

programming instead of using the old

copper system.”

Murphy says they actually have enough

bandwidth to transmit full-frame video

without compression, but they went to

MPEG encoding to preserve capacity for

the town’s many other network needs.

The station purchased five AVN210

encoders and five AmiNET110H

decoders from Visionary Solutions, permanently

installing four encoder

In a year when many Public / Education /

Government stations face budget cuts,

the PEG station in Andover,

Massachusetts has been able to expand

and modernize its facilities.

Reorganized as a not for profit corporation

in January, 2008, AndoverTV is

upgrading its studio facilities and recently

completed a switch to an IP-based production

network. The system, which the

station uses to transport programming

from remote locations across the town,

uses Andover’s new fiber-optic network

cable and MPEG encoders and decoders

from Carpinteria, CA-based Visionary

Solutions, Inc.

“From what I’m hearing,” reports

AndoverTV’s executive director, Wess

Murphy, “nobody has done this before, at

least not in our region. Nobody has

migrated from an analog system to an

all-fiber MPEG streaming system.” That

migration, according to Murphy, has

greatly streamlined the station’s operation

while eliminating the noise and interference

typical of long-distance analog