When D Media, a leading media entity in Egypt and the owner of DMC TV Network, were planning to build a completely new broadcast centre in Egyptian Media Production City, they selected a consortium of two well established Egyptian system integrators: Systems Design and Technology KAR to manage the whole project. The scope of the project was to launch several new TV channels broadcasting general entertainment programmes, news, sports, and drama. The consortium of systems integrators in turn allocated different aspects of the project to selected manufacturers and software houses, including: playout and studio automation to Aveco; the newsroom computer system to Octopus; long-term planning, scheduling and content management to Provys; production and playout servers to EVS and graphics to Vizrt. Perhaps Systems Design and Technology KAR got some ideas from previous articles about ABEX Society which highlighted the wealth of broadcasting expertise to be found within the members of the society in which the first three play a prominent role.
In contrast to many other local broadcasters’ habits, DMC specifically wanted to achieve maximum automation of all operational workflows. Scheduling is in pole position when it comes to workflows because all related activities are driven by the schedule. DMC is unique in that its scheduling contains long-term planning which subsequently triggers all downstream activities. A further special feature in DMC is the accurate scheduling of Salah times (Islamic prayer times) which occur five times per day at continually changing times, and which must be accurately programmed for years ahead. Such scheduling must also include appropriate and varied content for each prayer time. Out of interest, Salah times are calculated using a sophisticated mathematical formula using factors such as sunrise, sunset and shadows, typically in keeping with traditional Arabic expertise in the field of maths. These prayer slots are precisely defined within the system in order that subsequent operations cannot interfere with these prioritised intervals, thus avoiding any chance of human error.
“The whole scheduling and content management operation rests securely on an Oracle relational database platform, thereby facilitating co-terminus collaboration across the whole of the team. This is a vast improvement on previous standard office software systems which were not entirely dissimilar to the local archaeological monoliths”says Adam Krbusek, Senior Provys Consultant, Egypt.
One area where spreadsheets are still used is in the field of ad sales where commercial break time slots are defined and outsourced to ad agencies to fill appropriately. The completed spreadsheets are then imported back into Provys for subsequent playout. A further sophisticated element is the use of Arabic, reading from right to left, for all internal text communications whilst the menus are still presented in English in line with international standards and terminology.
On an interesting final point, Egyptian Media Production City is a concentrated hub of Egyptian media companies all working within a closed campus which is designed to protect the massive capital investments made by the various participants.