Television Stations and Air Operations



The traffic department and master control play a big part in the daily air operations of Television stations.  The start of the chain begins with the viewers.  They ultimately decide what they want to watch and let the station know with phone calls, mail, surveys, e-mail and donations.   The national network has a say of what and when it is to be aired. 

At MPTV, the production dept. creates a time schedule when the programs are to be aired.  They chooses whether to air the PBS network program or something else like a live broadcast of The Milwaukee Symphony.  They send the schedule to the media and the traffic dept.

The traffic dept. takes the schedule and creates a play list.  Protract is the software used to create the list.  Every second has to be accounted for.  The length of programs, commercials, station identification, program previews and everything that is aired is laid out by traffic.  They are very creative when programs lengths are short and they need to come up with fillers.  They have a choice of hundreds of video clips of varying length.  They put the pieces together and make everything fit.

The traffic dept has a list of all the PBS network programs and when the programs will be sent down from the satellite.  They program the computer and create a record list with the network sources, program time, and the device that will record it.

The programs are recorded on VTRs videotape recorder and video storage servers.  The tape storage library has 17000 tapes. The D2 record decks convert the video to digital format to ensure top quality. The video storage server also converts the video to digital format and stores the programs on hard drives.  The SeaChange video server has 6.3 Terabytes (6,300,000,000,000 bytes) of storage.  Each program purchased has an expiration date for airing rights.  Programs are purged when the dates expire.

Master Control is the heart beat of the station.  They control what actually goes on the air.  Although the Harris Automation computer runs everything automatically, the master control operators oversee the operation and make sure everything you see on your TV screen is perfect.  They queue up the tapes and server spots.  They set the start and stop points to the exact frame.  They manage all the network program downloads and keep the tapes organized.  Often the program length on the play-list doesn’t match the actual time of the program when it was recorded, so the MC operator edits the Harris automation play-list using Air Client.  Editing the play-list involves adding or subtracting from the list to make sure the main programs air exactly on the hour without the previous program getting cut off or having a gap between programs. They time it down to the frame.  There are 30 frames played in each second.  Sometimes the operator manually overrides the computer and switches the inputs and outputs through the main router.  If something gets corrupted, they fix it without you seeing any problems on the air.  They can manually fade sources in and out and they have many transitions at their disposal. They are the masters of Master Control.