ENCO DAD Automation Delivers Efficiency for Delmarva Radio
Like many public broadcasters, Delmarva Public Radio (DPR) in Salisbury, Maryland strives to bring quality programming to its loyal listeners despite limited staff and resources. Forming the heart of its operations, a recently-upgraded ENCO DAD radio automation system enables DPR’s small team to efficiently keep two full-time radio stations on the air with reduced personnel while adapting to changes in their evolving environment.
DPR operates two FM stations from the same studios on the Salisbury University campus, carrying programming from National Public Radio, American Public Media, Public Radio International, the WFMT Network and independent producers. WSCL (89.5 FM) offers fine arts and cultural content including classical music, while WSDL (90.7 FM) provides news and information during the day, and triple-A (adult album alternative) music programming at night.
Most significantly for station management, the power and flexibility of the ENCO DAD platform have enabled DPR to continue to meet their high broadcasting standards even as staff sizes dwindled. “On WSCL, we originally had five on-air classical music hosts, and we had dropped down to just one,” said Christopher Ranck, Associate Director of Program and Operation Services at DPR. “That required us to incorporate more syndicated programming while still ensuring a seamless product, and to depend even more heavily on ENCO’s robust automation. It’s made me really appreciate what DAD can do.”
Ranck cites a further recent personnel change as exemplifying the challenges that ENCO DAD has helped him overcome. “Our remaining classical music host departed fairly abruptly, leaving me roughly 24 hours to get an automated service that uses contact closures on the air,” he explained. “DAD was crucial in enabling me to achieve that in such a short timeframe. If I wasn’t using a system as versatile and easy to work with as DAD, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Outgrowing the decade-old host workstations of its previous ENCO installation and wanting to rebuild its overall architecture for enhanced network security, DPR upgraded its DAD deployment last year with a complete hardware and software overhaul. DPR’s DAD system now features two workstations linked to a central server and ENCO’s Interchange engine. The latter system is the only element of the installation exposed to the Internet and serves as the gateway between the DAD platform and the outside world, including ENCO’s own iDAD remote control solution and the third-party content services from which DPR obtains programming. Under the hood, the DAD Dropbox utility automatically handles any required format conversions of incoming content.
Even prior to the upgrade, DAD’s rich toolset, ease of use, and extensive integrated help system had proven invaluable to former teacher Ranck, who had no radio experience when he joined DPR in 2006. “I went from zero to 60 on DAD,” he recounted. “I was hired to be the weekend classical music DJ, but I also became the station’s problem-solver when we had issues like dead air created by syndicated programming that was shorter than expected, or when our opera broadcasts went long and would run into other shows. I taught myself how to use DAD to solve these problems, and am continually impressed by what it enables me to do.”
Ranck highlights the iDAD application, part of ENCO’s enCloud suite of web-based solutions, as one of his favorite DAD tools. “Having iDAD right on my phone gives me the freedom to go out on weekends while being confident that I can address any issues that arise,” he said. “For example, if a show comes in two minutes short, I can use a button in iDAD to play audio until the next automated hard branch, avoiding dead air. I have also used iDAD to record and submit audio remotely during a major weather event, and I plan to explore using it more for breaking news.”
ENCO’s voice tracking features have similarly given Ranck more flexibility in his personal schedule while saving him time. For his weekly hosted show, ‘The Show About…’, Ranck creates a theme-based playlist, then records and submits his voice tracks to DAD. “The voice tracking tools are a huge time saver, enabling me to do a two-hour show in about 15 minutes,” he said. “But just as important, they allow me to create an evening show with a local presence without actually having to be at the station, giving me more valuable time with my family.”
DPR also makes heavy use of DAD’s Scheduling Wizard. For WSDL’s syndicated content, Ranck has configured clocks that direct the station’s Broadcast Tools audio switcher to go to the satellite feed at the correct time, incorporate underwriting messaging through integration with Marketron’s Visual Traffic software, and then change back to the satellite feed. The wizard also saves significant time for classical WSCL, allowing the scheduling of multiple symphonies’ varying seasons with corresponding cut numbers as events – thereby eliminating the extensive effort of the traffic person manually entering such data for each program as it happens.
“ENCO DAD has made our lives infinitely easier, saving days of time each week and freeing me up to work on more important tasks,” Ranck summarised. “Running two different radio stations, it’s hard to have an ear on both of those stations all the time, so anything I can do to make things better and more reliable, I’m all for. DAD does exactly that.”