The weConnect project aims at establishing seamless networking amongst all ARD radio stations. Mainly affected by this change are editorial, production and scheduling systems. Until now, all these individual systems were separate solutions that enabled flawless and structured work, but used their own “language”, which made interoperability between these systems impossible. Now weConnect intends to remedy this situation and to connect the various areas of radio with its uniform concept.
weConnect essentially describes a REST interface through which so-called “stories” are exchanged. A story again contains all the editorial information, e.g. to describe an audio production or a line circuit. From a purely technical point of view, a story is an XML file, enriched with information, the so-called metadata, which is structured based on the metadata schema “BMF” (Broadcast Metadata Exchange Format) developed and maintained by IRT.
The introduction of weConnect offers two major advantages: on the one hand, already collected information can be expressed in a uniform language that makes it easier to harmonize the work between different broadcasting stations, and on the other hand, it will be easier to integrate products from other manufacturers into processes in the future.
The project “weConnect” is divided into two phases, which structure both the implementation and the introduction of different radio systems, over time:
In “Phase I” the technical basis for the switch to weConnect was created, e.g. the weConnect interface was specified and the sub-model schema “weConnect” (derived from BMF) was designed by IRT according to the input of the project members. In a next step, a communication concept was defined by the weConnect group, which allows the communication between different in-house systems, and between different broadcasters. In principle, this concept is based on so-called gateways, which serve as an entry gate for the exchange of information between broadcasters. Only these gateways are connected to the data network of the ARD, which makes it easier to implement the IT security guidelines of the ARD.
Furthermore, the adaptation of existing line scheduling systems as well as the audio file transfer was a central part of this phase. The previous proprietary replicator principle for audio file transfer from the year 2000, in which audio files are pushed to all connected broadcasters, had to be replaced by a more open technology in order to also enable the exchange of video, image and data files with their metadata. Besides, the replicator is a proprietary system and the dependency on a single company is not wanted anymore. Two further reasons for the introduction of weConnect were the desire to abolish the central line disposition at the ARD-Sternpunkt and the possibility of being able to automatically map certain work steps of line planning in the future.
The gateway concept of weConnect enables the in-house networking of production, disposition and editorial systems of different manufacturers. For some broadcasters, the proprietary integration of the systems into the system landscape can bring advantages that justify a certain dependency on manufacturers (e.g. all-in-one systems). However, existing individual systems can be replaced or supplemented at any time by new “weConnect”-capable systems.
Due to the corona pandemic, the training measures and the roll-out of the software in the broadcasting companies could not take place as planned. Therefore, the official switch to weConnect was postponed to October 2020.
In “Phase II”, which is expected to start in 2021, the project is finally to be completed with the connection of the editorial systems to the gateway network. Editorial systems will take over the entire journalistic workflow in radio, television and also online. This workflow ranges from research in different sources with central information, topic, and contribution pools, to planning and broadcasting operations, so their integration into weConnect is particularly desirable. When Phase II is completed, audio lines to other broadcasters, studios and even remote reporters can be planned in a topic-bound manner directly from the editorial offices. Furthermore, contributions from other broadcasters can be selected and, if necessary, included directly in the own broadcasting schedule.
For further information, please have a look at https://weconnect.irt.de/