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Public Radio Plans Distribution Upgrade

Improvement in satellite distribution along with more IP options

Michael Beach

National Public Radio expects to announce in May what the next generation of its interconnection system will look like. Current plans call for an upgraded satellite-based system much like the Public Radio Satellite System in place now.

However, NPR does intend to pursue more IP-based opportunities with the Public Broadcasting Service when feasible, according to Michael Beach, VP for NPR Distribution.

“The current plan is to upgrade the satellite system to improve efficiency and reduce cost. Simultaneously, we would take advantage of any terrestrial bandwidth opportunities with PBS where it makes sense, in particular for content contribution needs. New technology also offers capabilities that can allow the PRSS to offer new services,” Beach says.

NPR joined with PBS in 2015 to test an IP-based programming distribution system. It’s not clear if the fiber-based system tests are ongoing.

A proposal for the next PRSS interconnect system will be delivered to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in May, Beach says. “We have developed a detailed estimate that says the next interconnect system will cost just north of $50 million. We’re confident in that number.”

NPR Distribution will submit their interconnection upgrade proposal in May to CPB staff and then present to the CPB board in June, Beach says.

“If funds are approved by the federal government they’ll be available in FY 2018, which begins on Oct. 1, 2017. There is a lot of preparation we can do before the funds become available, and we’ve already begun that work,” Beach says.

PRSS distributes live and prerecorded content via satellite and the Internet to more than 400 public radio stations across America. The ContentDepot portal, introduced in 2006, allows NPR affiliates to manage content from producers.

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