BRUSSELS — Bruzz was launched in April last year, as a joint brand name for FM Brussel, TV Brussel and print magazine Brussel Deze Week (This Week in Brussels).
FM Brussel’s first broadcasts began in 2000 as a college radio station, it then became a professional radio broadcaster, catering to the Brussels area.
“In 2004, we relocated our studios and offices to the former VRT building,” said Karel Feys, one of the station’s founders. “The former ‘studio Flagey’ has great iconic and symbolic value and is the perfect home for a station, where we broadcast from the fourth floor.” According to Feys, the location is ideal for an urban station and, in addition, BRUZZ has access to the national broadcaster’s former Studio 6, which it uses for its TV broadcasts and for occasionally recording “unplugged” sessions.
After joining forces with TV Brussel and Brussel Deze Week under the umbrella “Vlaams-Brusselse Media,” the group created the BRUZZ brand. BRUZZ is subsidized by the Flemish Community and the Brussels Flemish Community commission.
Earlier this year, BRUZZ began building new on-air studios in VRT’s former cafeteria. “We wanted to move the studio closer to BRUZZ’s news and editorial office and make optimal use of the synergy of radio, TV, print and online media,” he said.
The BRUZZ radio landscape was built by Videohouse after winning a public tender. As the main contractor, Videohouse appointed radio infrastructure specialists TVV Sound for the implementation of the audio segment. The new studios were decorated in BRUZZ’s brand imaging colors, black, white and red.
The construction of the new broadcast studios kicked off in May with the transformation of the cafeteria. “To protect the historical value of the building, we had to be careful building the studio. We replaced the existing doors with acoustic doors but, for instance, we kept the old outside windows. This is not the ideal solution in terms of thermal or acoustic insulation but the windows, as protected heritage of the building, give the room extra charm,” said Feys.
“The fact that sometimes one hears the siren of a police car or fire truck could seem disturbing but the city in itself produces quite a bit of noise, such as the Djembé drums on the square at night in front of the building — that’s the sound of Brussels entering the dry acoustics of our on-air studio.”
They also integrated the former main double entrance door into the new studio, explained Feys. “It’s an eyecatcher, offering visitors a great view from the fourth floor’s main hall.”
The broadcaster equipped its on-air studio with a new Axia Fusion modular console and PowerStation controller in combination with a Zenon Media playout system. “The new studio marks the switch to Axia,” said Feys. “This has to do with the great flexibility offered by the Livewire audio network. Livewire has many advantages compared to Dante — they have established a protocol of their own, also with virtual GPO.”
An important feature in the new studio is the implementation of visual radio. Four automated voice-activated Panasonic AW-UE70 cameras, controlled by a Broadcast Pix Mica integrated production switcher and Vox voice-automated control with monitoring in the central control room, have been providing live images with the BRUZZ signal since Sept. 4.
“Without compromising the working environment of our presenters we have been able to introduce visual radio — correct lighting, mic arm stands and displays mounted from below the DJ’s position, bearing in mind the functionalities a self-op studio requires,” said Feys.
“BRUZZ adopted the MusicMaster music scheduling software. Our music programmers still have quite some impact on the music selection: BRUZZ has a typical ‘urban pop sound’ format targeting the dynamic population of the Belgian capital.”
The BRUZZ on-air configuration is completed with FAR Audio monitor speakers, and a Telos VX Prime AoIP telephone hybrid and talk show system. “We use the VX Prime in combination with Skype TX for Radio from Broadcast Bionics. This setup offers maximal flexibility both in talking to our listeners as well as with our reporters,” said Feys.
“Today, we’re also experimenting with WhatsApp, offering close to telephone quality, but we prefer not to take risks and are using Skype TX. Another plus is that we can use the Skype content for TV or online distribution — what you hear is what you see.”
BRUZZ uses Axia Pathfinder control software to create custom panels for studio switching and other monitoring or routing services. This can be done on a tablet, smartphone or any other device. The station’s on-air landscape further consists of two Zenon Media displays, two Axia displays and a large screen display for visual radio and Skype TX conversation items. Zenon Media’s Cartwall software display is used to insert quotes and interviews in news items.
The radio signal is channeled via Axia Fusion’s onboard DSP to an Omnia.11 audio processor in the so-called crow’s nest tower of the former VRT building.
“From there on, we use a microwave link to our Neetra DATX transmitter in Laken, covering the greater Brussels urban area on 98.8 FM,” he said.
The construction of the new studios started on June 1with the old on-air studio remaining operational. Feys was particularly happy working with Videohouse and TVV Sound in terms of technical support and consultancy.
“We also received a lot of input from Telos and Zenon Media on the implementation of their products.”
Technical radio coordinator Lore Devos took on the administration and training of BRUZZ’s extensive broadcast team, which comprises six full-time staff and plenty of volunteers.
“These volunteers represent the city’s subculture, we have our finger on the city’s pulse. The most popular parties that take place in Brussels have their own radio show on BRUZZ, and on Sundays, we have ‘The Bulletin,’ a radio show eyeing expats in the Brussels area,” said Devos.
“A mobile DJ booth in both the on-air or production studio that is fully compatible and equipped with a Zenon playout system caters for the different musical styles. We leave DJs the option to use vinyl, CDs or USB content, she said”
New radio staffers are trained in BRUZZ’s production studio, equipped with an Axia iQ eight-fader main frame plus an Axia QOR.32 integrated console engine, offering identical functions and features of the on-air studio.
“In an ideal world, all presenters would use the same configuration and user settings for the consoles. Today, we have specific settings for the station’s morning drive show and for the programs between 7 p.m. and midnight,” explained Devos. “These settings are loaded into the console bearing the adage that we want to take the purely technical aspect away from the DJ in favor his or her intuitive and creative presentation.”
One of BRUZZ’s key strengths lies in content interchangeability: Radio interviews can be used for TV and online media, while the TV channel’s audio signal is fit for radio.
“Our mission is to highlight Brussels and its diverse cultures. We want to play a role in the city’s social life, both by focusing on events in existing venues like AB or Bozar as well as smaller social projects. The cross-media synergy we have is a key instrument,” said Devos.
“Just meters away from BRUZZ’s radio studios is BRUZZ’s spacious editorial room. It houses up to 60 journalists and staffers that cater to the various media we offer. A specific ‘radio island’ is located close to the on-air studio and Koen Van Dijck, our station manager and producer, has a seat at the central editorial desk, together with his print, TV and online media colleagues, where all of BRUZZ’s content is scheduled and planned.”
Next to the main editorial space is a preproduction station serving both radio, TV and online. “We use the booth for separate presentations, voice tracking via the Zenon playout system or telephone interviews,” continued Devos. “Livewire connects this separate booth with our on-air studio.”
On Sept. 4, BRUZZ inaugurated its new radio studios and launched visual radio, with live broadcasts on TV during the 7 to 10 a.m. morning drive and the 4 to 6 p.m. evening bracket.
“Today, radio also offers a challenge in the visual field,” concluded Van Dijck. “This new radio studio brings BRUZZ a big leap forward putting our station literally in the picture. The interaction between radio and TV will become more intense, a real challenge to the whole local media scene. BRUZZ is definitely on the right track.”
Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.