Factory Support Lacking

Another thing to which we are now paying close attention is the long-term cost of ownership of new equipment.
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Thank you for the article by Paul McLane regarding manufacturers behavior ("Products That Work, Out of the Box," Sept. 24).

We have had a particularly rough month dealing with multiple television equipment manufacturers and startup and service issues. There are a couple things we have noticed, some in line with what Paul wrote about. The issue of poor documentation is really a big one that cuts across a number of areas of broadcast equipment. From our recent experiences the video manufacturers aren't any better than the transmitter firm he mentioned.

Equipment is far more sophisticated and has so many parameters now that it is time-consuming and frustrating to get things started up without proper instructions. And if things don't come up the way one expects, it's hard to tell if you don't know how to make it work or if something is really wrong with the product.

We also have noticed poorer quality control, sparse attention to detail and a scarcity of replacements even when under warranty. Twice in the last month we have had to wait for a vendor to supply warranty replacements; they didn't have any in hand. And then in some cases we got them and they were not configured properly (PAL instead of NTSC). One issue I think will have to be resolved by a site visit from their field engineer, as the tech support people really don't seem to be able to understand the problem remotely.

They and others seem to have a disconnect between tech support and the engineers who, hopefully, really understand the workings of the product.

Another thing to which we are now paying close attention is the long-term cost of ownership of new equipment.

I, and I know I'm not alone, am really unhappy about manufacturers of sophisticated, software-dependent equipment extorting software and hardware license and/or maintenance fees if you want any after-sale support.

One package I was recently pitched by a large broadcast manufacturer was so expensive I could buy a whole new unit with the same money in four or five years. And I look at a lifespan of 10 years plus. So that's a big question we are now asking and requiring in proposals. We recently bought an audio/video router and the final decision was made on long-term cost of ownership.

So as not to be completely discouraging, we have had some good experiences lately too. We have some issues with our FM exciter. Not surprising; it's got some age on it and needs attention. We were quoted a price to repair and update ours; part of the deal was an interim rental of a like unit. The rental came in set up exactly as we had specified, properly tuned and the power set as we had specified. The change-out took all of a few minutes.

Thankfully some people get it right, and those we will go back to later with our business. Keep up the good advocacy for us all.

David E. Priester, CPBE
Director, Technical Operations
Roy H. Park School of Communications/WICB(FM)
Ithaca College


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