CRA’s Commercial Content Standards

Staff Writer

Des DeCean is the former Director of Technology with Austereo, and the former Chair of DTAC and CCSG. He was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame in 2009.

I read with interest the comments (complaints) re broadcaster’s only accepting WAV files for content and the recommendation to use Piñata when delivering multimedia content (read on Radio Today here).

I was the chair of CCSG – The Commercial Content Standards Group established by CRA in 2008 to raise the bar and improve the quality and consistency of externally produced audio (predominantly commercials,) and to develop an effective way to manage multimedia content associated with that audio.

The CCSG comprised of Broadcast technology people and Content delivery organisations.

To ensure that all sectors in the content creation and distribution chain were involved, periodic reviews of progress were held with a variety of representatives from recording studios and production houses.

In summary the agreed standard as it is now published was closely scrutinised during its development and then accepted by representatives from each sector in the recording studio to consumer chain.

It is true that various forms of compression are used by broadcasters in the process from ingestion of content, to storage, and its ultimate distribution. The degree of processing and the number of generations of processing varies with individual broadcasters, and maybe dependent upon whether the station is networking, time zone shifting etc. It is inevitable that there will be a series of compression cycles in the end to end process.

In the case of DAB+ Digital radio, the Transmission process itself uses AAC+ (Mpeg4) compression.

It is the aim of the broadcaster to deliver content as faithfully as possible for the client and the listener. It is therefore critical that the source material is of the highest possible quality.

You may be familiar with concatenation in digital processing. That is the degradation of the source material resulting from a multiplicity of encode – decode compression cycles in the end to end path.

Ingesting linear (Wav) files is a huge step towards reducing concatenation and preserving end to end quality.

Thanks to more affordable Digital storage these days many on air play out systems store content as linear files. Studio to Transmitter microwave links are now often transporting linear data rather than compressed data thanks to more spectrum being made available for these services.

I think it’s fair to say that broadcasters generally try to avoid compression where possible. It is generally either the economics of broadcasting in the case of non metro stations, or imposed technical constraints such as lack of spectrum for links etc.

Regarding the Pinata (BWF) file format. This merely provides a convenient way of keeping all content elements and metadata together. Sure, many broadcasters may not yet be able to handle such content. It was always going to be about baby steps for the industry to hone our collective skills with handling multi-media content. 

As more receivers become available with slideshow capability, there will be a greater level of interest in using that feature for enhanced advertising. Life will be much easier if the content creators, distributors and broadcasters already have proven systems in place.

Des DeCean

Past Director of Technology – Austereo
Past Chair of DTAC and CCSG

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