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Diverse Skill Sets Are More Important Than Ever

Bohn: There are so many options out there when it comes to remote functions now

In a recent ebook, Radio World asked engineers to talk about how their own organizations have been affected by the pandemic.

Josh Bohn at WAPR(FM) in Selma, Ala., with the station’s modified Continental 816R-3C.

Josh Bohn says most radio broadcast clients of The MaxxKonnect Group are operating their businesses in person again but also continuing to employ a significant level of remote services. “Real-time voicetracking is showing up in places it previously hadn’t, as well as pre-produced shows being loaded remotely in near-real time,” said Bohn.

“A lot of remote functions will continue long-term with radio broadcasters. They have discovered that you don’t need salespeople sitting around a bullpen at the station when they can do the same thing from home, or their vehicle.”

MaxxKonnect is a technical services company that offers wireless connectivity and high-speed internet services, and it does broadcast integration work. Bohn is president/CEO.

The remote broadcasting infrastructures that his clients built out during the pandemic, he feels, will continue to be used in a lot of cases.

“Maybe not as a permanent, full-time solution, but I don’t see companies dismantling remote studios for talent that they built, or talent themselves getting rid of their home studios. It adds a layer of versatility that radio has now fully embraced and will be utilized.

“It’s also allowing broadcasters to downsize studios to save on real estate costs, and put more critical functions in the cloud.”

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MaxxKonnect has quite a few integration projects in the pipeline. “A lot of capital dollars were put on hold during the throes of the pandemic, and companies are reinvesting in their infrastructure.”

General COVID precautions during projects are now part of its routine, including masks, more social distancing and general handwashing.

“With more talent working from home, studio projects are typically less hectic than they were pre-pandemic. Transmitter projects, of which we’ve got at least five scheduled currently, haven’t changed much unless we are directly interacting with the customer’s staff or other crews onsite.”

Bohn, who also owns WIEZ(AM) and its FM translator in Decatur, Ala., sees more cloud solutions being employed, including at his own company.

“Recently, with the assistance of Alex Hartman of Optimized Media Group, we installed redundant VM servers and a RAID server for our MaxxKonnect Group offices and the operations of WIEZ.

“In the near future, my plan is to virtualize many of the dedicated PCs we’ve got in our operation, as well as the DJB Zone automation system I’m running for WIEZ.” Some of his clients are working on similar setups for their back-office functions.

“We’ve also deployed a lot of MaxxKonnect Wireless units for remote studio setups due to the pandemic. Obviously internet access is the key component to any cloud-based solution, so multiple sources of internet are necessary. Diversification of those sources between wireline and wireless helps reduce the chances of any one failure taking out all your internet options.”

So what does a typical “hybrid” radio operation look like now?

“We see them from something as simple as VNC into an automation PC and file drop to insert items, to full-on AoIP via VPN with in-studio level functionality at the remote location,” he replied.

“I don’t know that there is a ‘typical’ hybrid operation in 2021. There are so many options out there when it comes to remote functions now, it makes it easy to be picky and get what you want from the a la carte menu!”

Bohn says good engineering practice after the pandemic looks a lot like it did before the pandemic, with an emphasis on backups, connection diversity and improving reliability.

“Radio needs to stay relevant to stay profitable, and that’s a struggle if you’re off the air or operating in a reduced capacity,” he said.

“Engineers need to continue to be more IT-savvy to understand virtualization, the cloud, network diversity and infrastructure security — and still know how to fix the old tube backup transmitter. Broadcast engineers have always had to have a diverse skill set. That’s only changed in the fact that it’s getting more diverse.”

In the ebook “After the Masks Come Off,” Radio World asked engineers to talk about how their own organizations have been affected by the experiences of the past two years; whether they are applying cloud solutions or other types of virtualization; and what constitutes a typical “hybrid” radio operation now. It features comments from technical leaders at Audacy, Salem Media Group, Alpha Media, VPM, Cogeco Media, Educational Media Foundation, Second Opinion Communications, Burk and Shively. Read “After the Masks Come Off.”