Thursday, November 09, 2006

ISDN and College Radio

If you've never heard of ISDN, that's okay - it's a bit obscure. In radio terms, it usually refers to a device that uses ISDN telephone lines to make a high-quality audio connection to a remote location, with almost no delay. It's like having a cellphone but with CD-quality sound.

NPR & public radio make extensive use of ISDN...most affiliate stations have an ISDN box or "codec" in their studios. Lots of universities love having their professors and staff being interviewed on NPR. It's almost a status symbol these days.

But most of the time, those professors and staff don't want to hoof it over to the NPR affiliate's studios. They'd much rather stay on campus. At the same time, NPR always prefers to interview over ISDN instead of a regular telephone; audio quality is something they take seriously.

So this is where you, at your college radio station, come in. If your campus doesn't have can offer to provide it for any of your campus's professors/staff, if the college pays for the ISDN codec & line fees.

It's a win-win all get a free ISDN (that you can use for sports games and other remote broadcasts if you like), your college's media relations office will love you for providing the service since NPR is bound to call on your college's professors more often, and your professors are happy to stay on-campus and not drive 30 minutes to another station.

Best of all, besides just your campus's professors, you can rent out your studios for the purpose. Common rates are anywhere from $50 to $200/hr. Say you're in a small college town, and there's a local policitian that NPR wants to interview that has nothing to do with the college. There you go! NPR will pay you to rent your ISDN for the purpose of interviewing that politician. Happens all the time.

If you're not sure if your college has ISDN already, call up the media relations dep't and ask. If your campus already has an NPR affiliate with ISDN, obviously it's all moot...but if not, and if media relations doesn't either, suggest the idea above. Odds are good they'll like it.

Telos Systems makes the Zephyr Xstream, a common and well-designed ISDN codec. Other manufacturers of good models include Musicam USA, Comrex, Tieline, and AEQ. Prices for many of these are available at Broadcast Supply Worldwide, among other dealers. I mention BSW just because they're pretty good about having prices on their website...but if you have a preferred dealer then by all means, go with them.

You'll also need to work with your college's IT/Telecommunications office to get the required ISDN phone lines installed.

And finally, once it's all set up - don't forget to publicize it! Have your info posted at these sites: and and set up a page on your website detailing what your capabilities are, how much you charge, when you're available, and who to contact about booking the studio. Example sites include studio rental pages for Living on Earth and The Infinite Mind.

No comments: