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Transformation game

by Roger Field on Mar 16, 2017

Al Jazeera's Arabic news studio
Al Jazeera's Arabic news studio

Al Jazeera has long been a beacon for quality journalism, and with the redevelopment of some of its main studios and the ongoing installation of the latest media asset management systems, the broadcaster is also blazing trail with ambitious technology and system integration projects.

In what is likely the biggest broadcast integration project ever in the MENA region, Al Jazeera worked with Sony Professional Solutions MEA to completely redevelop three major studios in the initial phase of the project.

Al Jazeera and Sony PSMEA signed the contract to work on the far reaching project at the tail end of 2013 and work started at the beginning of 2014. Sony, which was hired as the lead system integrator on the project, is expected to complete phase two at the end of this year.

The initial stage of the project was for the redeveloped of studios 5, 14 and 2 and rollout of a global media asset management system, incorporating Al Jazeera’s Doha HQ and its global operations including major bureaus in London, Washington D.C. and Kuala Lumpur.

The overall project is transformative for each of the broadcaster’s channels: Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA), Al Jazeera English (AJE), Al Jazeera Mubashar and Al Jazeera Documentary Channel. When complete all channels will operate off a centralised media management and transmission system.

Currently most of the first phase of the project is complete, with Al Jazeera English building (which houses Al Jazeera Arabic’s Studio 5) now running on the new MAM and Avid Interplay PAM. The galleries for Studios 5, 14 and 2 went on air with the centralised systems last year in time for the broadcaster’s 20th anniversary in October.

In the early phase of the project, the studios also moved from individual CARs to a centralised system, which is far more efficient. Shabbir Hussain, head of projects, Sony Professional Solutions MEA, explains that the broadcast CARs were previously divided into zones, but are now consolidated in the AJE building.

The second phase of the project will see the complete MAM system and Production Asset Management (PAM) systems deployed throughout the network for studios 1, 2, 5, 11, 12, 14. The studios will also migrate to the complete centralised TX as part of the project.

The project work is further complicated by the simple fact that all of Al Jazeera’s channels must keep broadcasting 24/7 throughout the transformative changes.

The sheer complexity and scope of the project demanded a veteran management team be brought onboard to ensure it is delivered.

It also required candid and open dialogue between the teams at Al Jazeera and Sony Professional, which had 180 people working on-site at the height of phase one.

Digital Broadcast spoke to key members of the project management team at Al Jazeera and Sony Professional to get the details of this challenging upgrade project.

Ahmed Al Fahad, executive director of the project at Al Jazeera, joined in 2012 when the broadcaster was first talking about a project to upgrade systems and drive efficiency.

“In 2010 they started talking about the project and necessity of going ahead and upgrading all the facilities inside the studios,” Al Fahad says.


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