LONDON — From 5G trials and interactive drama, to how to temporarily replace a transmission site that’s also the seventh tallest free-standing building in Europe, the United Kingdom Radio TechCon event offered sessions on topics from all aspects of radio technology.
The annual event for audio broadcast engineers was held in the original home of the BBC — the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London’s Savoy Hill, where the organization was housed from 1923 to 1932.
Artificial Intelligence was a key theme, with Cordula Schellenberger from Veritone explaining how U.S. radio network Westwood One uses the company’s cognitive transcription engines to transcribe live sports broadcasts and national programs. Brand mentions and keywords are then discoverable through a search bar, allowing advertising verification reports to be produced in near real time. The same process also allows more than 50 years of archived media files with little to no accompanying metadata to be searched for logos, objects, faces and mentions.
The benefits of interactive and immersive audio featured in several talks. Students from University Radio York showed their award-winning #URSpy app, which allows listeners to take part in an interactive drama, with the story unfolding dependent on their location on the campus. Meanwhile, Philippa Demonte from the University of Salford demonstrated a BBC Taster project using speakers in mobile phones and other devices to offer a spatial audio experience. The demonstration of the “device orchestration” concept saw more than 70 mobile devices in the audience connected to play out audio from the specially-produced audio drama “The Vostok-K Incident” around the room.
Judy Parnall, chair of the EBU’s Technical Committee, offered an overview of the technical landscape, including a trial of broadcast over 5G on the remote Orkney islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland. These closed trials will include radio and other content from the BBC — the area is not covered by DAB digital radio broadcasts.
Transmission provider Arqiva brought stomach-churning helmet-camera footage from engineers working at height on the 330-meter (1,084 feet) Emley Moor mast in Yorkshire, one of the tallest free-standing structures in Europe. A completely new temporary mast has been built while the main mast is being upgraded. While lower sections of the new mast could be constructed with a crane, specialist helicopters were needed to lift the higher sections — some weighing over 2.5 tons — to the top of the mast to be attached.