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Wanted: DTV Business Plan

One thing is clear for Clear Channel: IT is it. "I hate to say it, but broadcasting by and large has given up its position as a technology leader," says Senior Vice President/ Director of Engineering Mike DeClue. "We're now in a position of adopting the things that [IT vendors] are developing. "

At NAB, DeClue will be investigating how to get the most efficiency out of its systems and its personnel. He expects more IT-based solutions to be used by Clear Channel stations.

The goal is to use fewer routing switchers and move toward network- and file-based systems. The challenge, though, is to find adequate IT-based equipment to meet the demands of a broadcast environment, but DeClue expects to find more balance between traditional and non-traditional broadcast vendors this year.

For all the talk of equipment at NAB, he points out, there is more to building a better broadcast operation in this time of rapid transition. "You can have the best equipment in the world," he says of the implementation of DTV, "but, if you don't have the people to [implement] the equipment and to write the checks, you'll never get it done."

More important than finding new technology, DeClue admits, is coming up with a "slam dunk" business plan for DTV. "We just have to find a revenue stream that will justify the expenditure."

Although he will be scouring the show floor for solutions that can be implemented group-wide, the company takes a laissez-faire attitude toward the individual stations. "What we promote here is support of the stations," he says. "We want the stations in that sense to be as independent as possible."

For example, DeClue will research automation systems because the group currently has a "patchwork of different automation" systems. He would like to see the group move toward increased standardization, but "it's not one size fits all. A strong affiliate [in the top market] is much different than a Fox station in 75th market."

Clear Channel already uses video servers across most of its group, including SeaChange, Philips, Leitch and Thomson Grass Valley.

For building out nonlinear editing systems, DeClue expects to find manufacturers' increased adoption of the MXF file wrapper for file management and distribution.