By Chris Forrester
The Arab world’s MENOS (Multimedia Exchange Network Over Satellite) system has been a huge success. Operated in conjunction with the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU), Arabsat and using equipment from Belgium-based Newtec, the technology has won the unequivocal support of the ITU and World Broadcasting Union for its simplicity and efficiency.
MENOS has now been adopted by the African Union of Broadcasters (AUB) to establish its own content exchange network. A deal was signed in Accra, Ghana, in November 2011, potentially extending MENOS to the rest of Africa.
European broadcasters have had Eurovision for decades, but the concept of common sharing is new, especially for some sub-Saharan broadcasters who have long wished to see an inexpensive, but reliable, system available for content sharing. In essence MENOS is a simple system that allows – and encourages – member broadcasters to send and receive news, sports reports, cultural packages and programming via low-cost dedicated IP-based satellite links.
MENOS enables fully automated and sharing of video (and radio) content from scattered source sites to often equally scattered recipients. Arab broadcasters have been using MENOS since June 2009, and while it was originally intended for public broadcasters, many of whom are cash-strapped, the system has since been adopted by many private TV broadcasters. Indeed, last Autumn Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news broadcaster, joined the scheme for its Al Jazeera Sports channels.
MENOS cost some $4m to develop and implement, and the African extension has been part-funded by the African Development Bank. Other funds will help secure the first three years of operations and see it to commercial viability.
MENOS allows digital SNG/ENG content to be exchanged using the satellite return channel DVB-RCS system. It can even be used within a country as an internal file exchange system and as a Virtual Network. Initially, the MENOS system depended on a single Arabsat transponder, responding and transmitting to Flyaway stations as well as dedicated uplink Earth stations.
The new AUB MENOS system is aimed primarily at enabling professional broadcasters to share video and audio material across the African continent. It will eventually enable the exchanges between the 48 active member broadcasters of the AUB and also exchanges between African broadcasters (both public & private) and the rest of the world of news, culture, sports and other programmes.
Simon Pryor (pictured), who leads Newtec’s MENOS team, explains: “MENOS is a star-based satellite system, and the terminals can be mobile or fixed. The user has a simple web interface where they book a time (start and end) and type of session that they need. The actual content can be live or recorded, TV or radio.
“Users can specify who is allowed to view or use the material, and whether the access is automatic. Potential users can also say they want to see the content even if they are not part of the initial distribution, and the sender can confirm that request. The material can also be specified for archiving either centrally or locally. This allows the content to be played out at a later date.”
“The cost to broadcasters is according to a published Rate Card,” he adds. “Members of the system get a preferential discounted rate for their usage, and this permits a certain amount of transmission time within their annual commitment and this can include unilaterals or wider multilaterals and will depend on their package and their own probable needs.”
“We have seen the demonstrable benefits of the MENOS platform to our members in the MENA region and are committed to providing our operational capability, expertise and content to assist the AUB in its aspirations,” said Slaheddine Maaoui, director-general of ASBU.
“The creation of an African exchange of news and programming will bring Africa back into the world network of satellite exchanges,” said EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre. “It will enable the African continent to be seen and heard by the world, and we look forward to working with the AUB as it enters the digital era.”
The MENOS offering
• Fully automated radio and TV exchange sessions
• Store and Forward File Transfer
• VoIP Voice Coordination Channels
• Secure Virtual Private Networks
• Archiving of audio and video content
• Internet/Intranet access
• Video and Audio conferencing
• Distance learning and training
• Automated billing of consumed services