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Community TV Station TVS

If you watch digital TV in mainland capitals, you may have come across a "community" channel. In Sydney it's a station called TVS, which has a range of interesting programs, quite different to those on main-stream stations. So what is TVS and who are the people behind it?

by Barrie Smith

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It may not look much like a TV station . . . because TVS is nothing like a "normal" TV station!

In a number of ways, the operation of “free to air” television station TVS, or Television Sydney as it is properly called, is far ahead of the major free-to-air broadcasters in its takeup of digital technology. All programming, adverts, station IDs etc are digitised and merged to provide a programming stream that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the early morning hours the operation runs without human help.

TVS emanates from within the Werrington campus of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) – but it is not part of the university.

Stroll into the featureless building on campus and you enter the TVS suite of rooms. But there are no studios, no cameras, no lights, no announcer’s booth and no rows of on-air monitors, cosseted by technicians.

In fact, all TVS programming is made off site. The TVS HQ is purely a digital centre which pulls all the elements together, plots the program output and then sends the output via microwave to a dish at nearby Horsley Park, then onto the Broadcast Australia transmitter at Gore Hill, near North Sydney.

Startup

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Operations Manager Ian Sneddon checks the two Playbox digital servers, each with seven Terabytes capacity, used as playout machines.

TVS commenced initial tests in November 2005 and launched an analog service in February 2006, on UHF channel 31 The digital service began on March 1 2010. Previously there had been a community broadcaster on channel 31 but that had been off air for two years, prior to the arrival of TVS.

The initial TVS board comprised a group called Educational Training Corporation, a joint venture between UWS and Metro Screen, a video training centre, plus a production group called Slice-TV.

David Hill, ex-chairman of the ABC, was the original convener of the board and then former GM of Seven Network Queensland, came in as the initial CEO. Henri de Gorter, the Program Manager, was hired from the beginning.

Right from the start, the channel was a fully digital and server-based station. This was enabled due to the co-operation with a company called Playbox, who supply automated, software-based broadcasting solutions. Playbox has its R&D centre in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Staffing

The station runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The permanent staff consists of de Gorter, Operations Manager Ian Sneddon plus a programming assistant, an operations assistant and a promotions producer. Added to this is the UWS-appointed CEO, Rachel Bentley.

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