Harald Kräuter (ORF)

Alongside the general transformation of the work environment, of media consumption patterns and towards a digital society, the core technology project for ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster, has been the consolidation of different production locations on the premises of the historic TV Center. Following a thorough renovation of the legacy structure, several new buildings and extensions to existing spaces have been built and equipped with cutting-edge technology, within just five years of the initial “go” at the ORF board meeting on 22 March 2018.

Much more than a simple relocation project, the transformation included changes in workplace culture, management structure and production workflows. Additional factors within the timeframe were the transition from SDI to IP transport, from HD to UHD, from legacy IT to virtual containers and – last but not least – the COVID situation.

Newsroom for the future

Combining previously separated units from radio, television and online in the same space, up to 400 journalists, editors and engineers can work together in the new newsroom. Delivering news content for three television channels, 12 radio channels, teletext and various websites, apps and social media platforms, the arrangement of workplaces was designed along workflows and not along traditional media boundaries. A breakthrough regarding open cooperation was made possible by situating the new fully automated television studio and production gallery next to a self-service video standup position, the social media studio, the live radio booths and the video editing suites.

Within this setting, cross- media topic management and efficient exchange of information and content in case of ‘breaking news events’ as well as a refocus on the end-user products is possible.

ORF’s technical departments were instrumental in creating not only the studio and production infrastructure, but also in tying together IT and workplace management, software and tools, and the general transformation of production and tech support in a multimedia digital-first environment, while preserving the ‘heart and soul’ of traditional live television and radio broadcasting.

End-to-end content management

Mirroring the mindset of the connected newsroom, a completely new environment for ingest, contribution, smart production, playout, master control and distribution has been designed and built. Centred around the concept of highly configurable dynamic workplaces, the actual workforce on the new technology floor can be scaled up from one to 36 persons, with all control and monitoring units assignable to each workplace by means of a virtual KVM and a freely assignable multiviewer solution.

The entire signal flow is run over IP using the ST 2110 set of standards for video, audio and control signals and is UHD compliant. Again obliterating traditional boundaries, the separation of playout management, operational engineering and systems monitoring was lifted. Signal management and on- air monitoring of traditional broadcasting and streaming could also be combined.

Several new smaller production units close to the content management desks will allow for highly efficient smart production techniques, reflecting the need for more live and on-demand content, especially for online- only sports, news, children’s and light entertainment formats.

Video needs the radio stars

In another “Lazy Buggles Headline” (copyright James Cridland), the relocation of the three nationwide radio channels, FM4, Ö3 and Österreich 1, from their previous offices to the new ORF Media Campus had a huge impact on the company’s culture and challenged traditional television-centric producers and engineers on site. A dynamic crowd of younger, more diverse producers, presenters, creative editors and production artists, lifted the spirits and enabled closer cooperation and production.

This is well reflected in the layout of the technical setup at the new radio production spaces, which include video cameras, web streaming and live music spaces from the ground up. Built on the basis of a modular acoustic studio design developed by BOXY in Milan and using the newest audio-over-IP technology from DHD.audio, engineers, producers and talent can now switch between shows and settings much more freely, while preserving the individual character of the respective radio station.

Overall results

Although not without its obstacles and difficulties, the ‘mega-project’ of change and renewal at all levels of ORF’s organization has come to a successful conclusion. Individual projects were completed on time and on budget, employee morale is high, and ratings of ORF television, radio and online products and channels are stable. As such, a major part of the transformation “from broadcaster to platform” has been achieved by the team of the Technical Directorate. From here on, it will be a combined effort of all forces inside and outside of ORF to keep this course and deliver the best public service value possible to Austria’s audience.


This article first appeared in issue 56 of EBU tech-i magazine, where you can find more photos of the campus.

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