TranSPORT: ABC’s Richard Wolf Tackles Satellite-Interference Issues

All broadcasters deal with satellite interference on a regular basis. The major problem is that the source of that interference is rarely identified or remedied.

“The industry has been talking about satellite interference since some of you were in diapers,” said Richard Wolf, VP, Telecommunications & Network Origination Services, at ABC Broadcast Operations and Engineering, “but I think we finally have a little bit of momentum that we can do something about it.”

At SVG’s TranSPORT Summit, Wolf made a short presentation outlining the goals and initiatives of the Radio-Frequency Interference – End User’s Initiative (RFI-EUI), a group of industry professionals founded in February.

A voluntary group composed of media companies, equipment manufacturers, industry groups, satellite-system operators, and satellite-service providers from around the world, RFI-EUI was established to work with satellite operators to identify, mitigate, and prevent — ultimately, to stop — satellite interference.

To do this, the RFI-EUI focuses on three core areas, which have been assigned to subcommittees: Carrier ID, Training and Certification, and Best Practices, Documentation, and Technology.

“Not necessarily cutting-edge stuff, but I think we can all admit that, over the last three, five, maybe even 10 years, we’ve gotten something done in this business because of cost containment and we’ve gotten a little sloppy in our satellite execution,” said Wolf. “We didn’t do training as much as we should; we probably cut corners on some equipment and monitoring services. So it’s time for us as a group of media users to say, let’s focus on these three core areas to see if we can start to make a difference.”

A key focus of his presentation was improving training of satellite operators. According to a statistic he cited, approximately 75% of satellite interference can be traced to human or equipment error.

“One of the proactive things we can do is to take training seriously,” said Wolf. “Let’s take some time with our operators and give them the tools of understanding of what the basics of satellite operations and communications are.”

He also discussed the possibility of establishing a licensure system where anyone operating a satellite-uplink truck would first have to pass a certification program.

In the realm of carrier identification, RFI-EUI hopes for universal adoption of carrier-ID standards that are acceptable to the entire community of satellite-system operators and users and would be used on all transmissions.

“If a mistake has been made or equipment has failed and we can’t identify who the problem is, we have a long-duration incident,” said Wolf, adding that a carrier-ID standard could be implemented in the near future.

For more on the RFI-EUI, visit the organization’s Website.