ViA Codec a Game Changer for Farm Journal Radio
By John Herath, Director of Operations, Farm Journal Radio
Farm Journal Radio is part of the Farm Journal Company which has properties in print, web, data, television and radio, all focusing on agriculture. On the radio side we have two syndicated talk shows called AgriTalk and Market Rally, plus daily syndicated features American Countryside and DairyLine.
When I first joined AgriTalk in 2003, Tieline Commander and i-Mix G3 codecs were used for all remotes. We mostly connected over POTS in those days, but now we use Tieline’s ViA to broadcast AgriTalk and Market Rally exclusively over IP.
AgriTalk is a live, one-hour syndicated talk radio program focusing on agriculture and rural America. It airs on 98 affiliate stations throughout the Midwest. Mike Adams has hosted the show since 2001 and he travels over 100 days a year to do remote broadcasts, which facilitate discussions about issues and ideas important to rural America.
We purchased ViA in 2016 and it has been on the road continuously since then. It’s very compact and there’s a lot in that small box that is easy to take with you anywhere. It also comes with a rugged and durable carry case which is light and easy to take on flights.
As you can imagine, IP connectivity can be difficult in many of the agricultural regions we visit, so flexibility is paramount. One day we may be at a convention center, and the next broadcasting directly from a farm in the Corn Belt.
ViA lets us connect over a DSL or LAN connection when it’s available, or we use the codec’s built-in Wi-Fi to connect over a hotel or convention center hotspot. If required we can connect using a PepWave wireless router and this works brilliantly. It nearly always gets a solid signal, even when everything else fails. We have also used a Verizon 551L USB modem attached to one of ViA’s two USB ports, so we pretty much have every option covered. I can even connect to a cell-phone Wi-Fi hotspot if required.
ViA’s touch screen is a game changer for us. It allows you to access what you want quickly and this is particularly useful when connecting over Wi-Fi. Most Wi-Fi hotspots we encounter on the road require a browser login and in the past this was extremely difficult to manage. ViA’s support for Wi-Fi browser portals has been a massive plus and we can connect to hotspots in seconds. It’s certainly a relief to no longer have to fight with hotel IT departments to get around the login!
The menus are intuitive and setup is a breeze. I have configured two programs which have been added as “Favorites” to the screen, so that non-technical staff can simply tap a pre-set connection and go live. These favorites automatically dial a studio Commander G3 or Bridge-IT codec in an instant.
The internal battery lasts for several hours of continuous broadcasting which also increases mobility and broadcast possibilities. Last year we broadcasted AgriTalk from a pontoon boat on the Mississippi river, which required a generator and other ancillary equipment. This year we could do the same remote using ViA alone!
Connections are rock solid. In all our broadcasts so far we haven’t had a single flutter or drop! I am currently testing Tieline’s Fuse-IP network bonding with a view to integrating this technology into our future broadcasts as well. We normally broadcast in mono using Tieline’s Music algorithm at 128kbps and the default auto jitter settings work well. We receive a mix-minus from the studio codec and most of our communications are via text chat on an on-site PC.
Overall I’m highly pleased with the unit. When you look at the IP connection options, coupled with the internal battery, it makes it easy to do a remote from just about anywhere. It’s performed well and has increased our flexibility and I’m looking forward to the next round of developments in ViA to increase its flexibility even further.
John Herath started his career in Jacksonville, Illinois with WLDS Radio and he has also worked in the Bloomington and Springfield markets as a news director, talk show co-host and producer. John joined AgriTalk in 2003 after nearly 5 years as chief spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.