CGI’s OpenMedia newsroom system played an important part in keeping services on-air during the pandemic, enabling the vast majority of BBC news staff to operate effectively and efficiently

Now more than ever, with COVID-19 a part of everyday life, people rely on accurate and timely information. As fake news sources become a greater concern, a trusted source of information is essential. CGI’s newsroom system, OpenMedia, is a tool used by the BBC to deliver its news output to an ever-changing audience, reaching 468 million news consumers globally each week.

The challenge

In 2015, the BBC recognized the need to replace its newsroom system, which had been used for almost 20 years by approximately 10,000 journalists in over 120 locations worldwide. The BBC wanted to enable its newsgathering team to better report from the field with improved mobile working on phones and tablets and was looking to save £4 million a year with a new system.

Following a competitive and detailed procurement process, ANNOVA (now CGI) won the contract to provide its OpenMedia newsroom software to the BBC. OpenMedia supports both TV and radio broadcasting, delivers agency wires and enables users to manage all input and output in broadcast newsrooms. OpenMedia aids newsroom operations both inside and outside news organizations via desktop, mobile phones or tablets.

The replacement OpenMedia newsroom system needed to improve access to stories and information while offering full, fast resilience. For example, in the event of an outage, an entire location’s user base would be supported seamlessly from a different geographic location. The new solution would even have to handle a once-in-a-lifetime event, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and enable immediate emergency broadcasting.

Additionally, the OpenMedia system had to be installed in a wide range of countries, occasionally in challenging environments around the world—from war zones and repressive regimes to cultural and economic capitals.

How CGI helped

Owain Griffiths, CGI’s director of media for UK and Australia says, “We worked with the BBC to help implement CGI’s OpenMedia newsroom system to replace the legacy software across all of the BBC’s sites, including all UK nations and regions and the global World Service Bureau. This involved meticulous planning and execution to ensure hearts and minds were brought along and to achieve full user buy-in.”

The BBC has a complex ecosystem of broadcast devices that varies considerably across the UK and internationally. Every device had to be tested with OpenMedia to ensure a smooth transition and uninterrupted transmission of the news. During the transition period, there were other changes, including the major national service in Cardiff’s physical move and migration to a pure IP environment.

Ensuring a seamless transfer for users from the previous newsroom system to the new OpenMedia solution was a key aim. Many users were very accustomed to the old system, having used it for two decades. During the handover, extensive support was available both on-site and through CGI’s Service Desk team, with comprehensive training provided to a BBC team who then trained the end users in turn.

Improving collaboration across teams–with a free and easy flow of information throughout the 15,000-strong user base—was another key priority.

Informing audiences in complex times—comprehensive news production during a pandemic

CGI’s OpenMedia system has been at the heart of the BBC’s news output during COVID-19. CGI’s OpenMedia newsroom system played an important part in keeping services on-air, enabling the vast majority of BBC news staff to operate effectively and efficiently.

The system had to operate 24/7/365 with minimal down time, due to a worldwide deployment in all time zones. Due to the pandemic, the system also had to ensure comprehensive and easy remote administration, as there was often severely limited access to BBC premises.

Griffiths comments, “We’re proud to have supported the BBC in achieving a generational change of its newsroom system.”

This article originally appeared in TVBEurope, a trade publication covering the broadcast media industry.