Rising star

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It’s been non-stop at Al Aan TV recently. The channel was the first to install its own transmitter in revolutionary Tripoli following last year’s uprising, beating both the BBC and Al Jazeera, with several more now in place around the country. With six transmitters from Tripoli to Benghazi, Misrata and beyond, the entire country is able to receive the Al Aan signal from its Dubai HQ. The next step on this front will be to begin transmitting local content for its Libyan audience.

Closer to home, recent market research showed the channel is becoming an increasing favourite among its target demographic of young, professional, Arab women with its mix of culture, fashion and entertainment shows proving especially popular with young, Blackberry-using Emirati women and female Arab expats in Saudi Arabia.

It’s not all entertainment and fashion though. The channel has repeatedly shown it is not afraid to cover the big issues too – in April 2011 it came into the international spotlight when it showed footage of a woman reportedly being stoned to death by the Taliban in Pakistan, while towards the end of the same year it was also the only TV channel in the world to film and report the secret funeral of Muammar Ghadaffi.

Al Aan has certainly made a big impact since its 2006 launch. In September of that year it was announced that the channel was among the first in the Arab world to produce its own content, 24-hours a day, through a combination of its own in-house facilities in Dubai and content outsourced to production companies in Beirut and KSA. There have been plenty more improvements to both content and infrastructure since then too, as Raad Haddadin, head of technical, explains:  “We’ve upgraded significantly since launch, most recently the servers. Initially we had only Harris device controllers and one Omneon server with four ports. We’ve now upgraded all that to being HD/SD capable and the infrastructure is all Harris now. We have two new ADC device controllers, eight ports and Nexio Gateway. We’ve also integrated our Avid edit suite with the server. Previously we were transmitting tapeless, but if we wanted to do any editing we had to do so on tape, but the whole workflow is now tapeless.”

Last year, Al Aan also launched Al Aan Services, making the channel’s equipment and expertise available to third party broadcasters who wish to shoot in, or broadcast from the region: “We have two OB vans complete with SNG, two HD flyaway kits and Sony 350K HD ENG cameras. Any client that wants to shoot HD can do so, and the studios here are also available to hire. The studio on our fifth floor has room for multiple sets, so we can use that area for more than one shoot, and we’ve already had clients like Euronews shooting up there.”

With further improvements planned to Al Aan’s fifth floor studio, it may well become increasingly popular over the coming months, as Haddadin explains: “The whole of the fifth floor will be changing very soon. I’m going to be replacing all the lights – currently we’re using Arri Tungsten, but I’ll be upgrading to Arri LED. With tungsten we’re limited by what we can do up there by the power consumption, and the heat. We can’t run more than one set at a time. I’ll be installing seven new LED sets in July – they consume just 22W of power and give you 1,000W of light.

“On top of that, I’ll be redesigning the Master Control Room. Currently it’s one big room with all the transmission and ingest in it, but soon it will be two separate rooms with all new equipment and more of a 2012 look and feel.

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