Saffron TV, a niche television channel targeted mainly at the South African Indian market was launched on the 30th of August this year on the DSTV bouquet. The channel goes out at weekends on the premium bouquet and to subscribers for 20 hours a day from Monday to Friday.

It is the first public channel to go out from the Broadcast Centre in Fox Street, Johannesburg since TV2 and TV3 back in the �80�s.

Global Access, who have been operating the facilities contained in Broadcast House for the past 15 years, traditionally provide services on a business to business basis. However, this is the first time there is a live channel going out from the centre.

Ronnie Van Wijk, co owner of Global Access is enthusiastic: �We were approached by Stan Joseph of Ochre, who has over the past year evaluated a number of broadcast and new media opportunities for AVUSA. They were looking for a service provider for the new channel and we were able to provide the solution.  It is amazing that the historic broadcast house is doing what it was originally designed to do.�

Van Wijk says from the Global Access perspective, the challenge was to come up with a technical solution that is both state-of-the-art, cost effective and above all reliable for the lifestyle type presentation channel.

�At the same time we had to provide Saffron with studio-based production resources and to this end we use our Studio Four for the local content material and also a final cut pro system for post production.

�We selected a machine automation system called Vector Box which enables Global Access to use standard server based technology as the video server. The server at present runs all the frequent content elements on the schedule such as station ID, commercials and promos and together with the more longform production,� explains Van Wijk

Mark Williams, Operations Director of Global Access Transmission Centre, takes up the story: �I was approached by Van Wijk to assume this role considering that I had experience in the start up of M.Net, TV Africa and NSAT � I also had expat. Channel experience on Sky to the United Kingdom, as well as my experience in operations during the 70�s and early 80�s at the SABC.

�We use the Vectorbox Automation Transmission play out system. Global Access has always had links to DSTV as they have another channel GA1 that broadcasts on the commercial Bouquet. It�s an interesting historical fact that Saffron TV is the first private commercial broadcaster ever to originate out of Broadcast House since it was built in 1936. All the other public commercial radio and television services were run by the state.�

Stan Joseph, Executive Director of Ochre, comments: �We activated the project in April this year, but the first few months were mainly set-up and we started shooting in July. We work on an 80% internationally acquired content and 20% local content, and we produce seven hours of local shows every week. We have a team of three producers.  But to be honest, my entire management team is mucking in at the moment.  It�s very hands on - but that�s only to be expected.

�I believe there are about 36 000 subscribers to DSTV Indian, there are about 150 000 Indian households on DSTV and the total available Indian market for pay TV is in my opinion perhaps 500 000.

�We use the Global Access studios in the city centre, which is convenient and ideal. We currently package at Ochre's post facilities, but the channel is played out from Global Access.

�It involves lots of late nights! It�s a huge task when you do it the first time, but I�m sure it will get easier.  It�s more than just production, there are logistics associated with acquiring thousands of hours of international content, there�s the whole side of scheduling and transmitting the service, there�s the ad sales and other commercial issues.  It�s been a huge task and we are lucky to have the organisational backing of Ochre and AVUSA.�