Harrington School unveils state-of-the-art Broadcast Center

The University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication and Media will unveil its cutting-edge, $1.25 million Broadcast Center with a grand opening ceremony and open house Friday, Sept. 27, featuring remarks from Chief CNN International Anchor Christiane Amanpour ’83, Hon. ’95.

The Broadcast Center, housed in the Chafee Social Science Center on the Kingston Campus, has undergone extensive renovations over the last year, leading to an ultramodern studio and control room with the latest in digital production, streaming and broadcasting technology. Renovations were made possible by grants from the Champlin Foundation and the URI Provost’s Office, along with private donations from prominent donors Richard and Jean Harrington, and Herman Rose, along with other members of the Harrington School Advisory Board.

“We are extremely grateful to all those who helped make this state-of-the-art broadcast center a reality,” said Adam Roth, director of the Harrington School and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The URI Broadcast Center is the only academic facility of its kind and magnitude in the state. Its cutting-edge technology will greatly enhance our curriculum and production capabilities, along with providing students the skills needed to succeed and become leaders in communication and media.”

With more than 1,350 students, the Harrington School offers 26 programs and concentrations in such disciplines as communication studies, film and media, multimedia journalism, public relations, sports media, writing and rhetoric, and library and information studies. The production skills students will learn in the new facility will be transferrable to a wide range of professions, from media and entertainment to public relations and advertising.

Renovations on the center started in August 2018, and have transformed what was formerly an older TV studio into a state-of-the-art broadcast center, said Jeff Fountain, manager of the center and instructor in TV production.

“We have a facility now that makes beautiful images with professional lighting and professional audio,” said Fountain, a three-time Emmy Award winner for technical directing on NBC Sports’ live coverage of the Summer Olympics. “We’re giving students an opportunity to learn on equipment that they will encounter in a professional broadcast facility.”

“The new URI Broadcast Center will be an incredible resource for our students to learn hands-on skills in news production,” said Yianni Kourakis, sports director for WPRI-TV and FOX Providence and a part-time faculty member who will teach sports broadcasting as part of the Harrington School’s new Sports Media and Communication major. “I am excited for my classes to learn sports broadcasting and all its components in a state-of-the-art, on-campus facility.”

The 625-square-foot studio boasts an 11-foot news desk that can accommodate five students on camera, four robotic cameras, an overhead lighting grid that greatly improves lighting capabilities, and an array of state-of-the-art LED lighting fixtures. The Broadcast Center’s control room has also been upgraded, featuring a powerful video router, modern audio board and communications system, along with a large video monitor wall.

Fountain, who also has directed live broadcasts for CNN, VH-1 and CNBC and was a promotions producer at WJAR-TV in Providence, helped oversee design of the facility after joining URI in fall 2018. His work with NBC included helping assemble the broadcast center control room for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, which was later used in the CNBC studio in New Jersey. “I made sure the center’s control room would function like any control room I’ve been in in New York,” Fountain said.

While the new studio and control room will serve as a classroom for courses in such topics as sports media and TV production, it will also provide workshops for students and faculty. But the facility’s capabilities go far beyond those of the previous center. New equipment will provide students hands-on experience in a number of areas, including the ability to produce content from the field and oversee event broadcasts from buildings around the Kingston Campus.

A new mobile production unit will serve as a traveling control room, allowing students to produce content from anywhere, on campus or off. A Grass Valley Viper unit that converts serial digital interface (SDI) video to an optical fiber signal now gives the Broadcast Center the ability to take advantage of existing and augmented fiber connections around campus. That will allow students in the Chafee control room to produce coverage of events like the Honors Colloquium in Edwards Hall or a basketball game at the Ryan Center, and then live stream the content on Facebook or record it for later use on YouTube.

“This Broadcast Center is primarily an educational tool, but this is a working, professional facility and there’s a capability here that URI has never had before,” Fountain said. “It’s probably going to take a year for faculty and staff to fully understand the magnitude of capabilities the studio brings.”

The Broadcast Center grand opening is Friday, Sept. 27, at 11 a.m. in Room 271 of the Chafee Center, 10 Chafee Road, with welcoming remarks from URI President David M. Dooley and Harrington School Advisory Board Chairman Richard Harrington ’73, Hon. ’02; along with Amanpour and Roth. Tours of the new facility will follow.

The night before, Thursday, April 26, Amanpour will present the annual Amanpour Lecture in Edwards Hall at 7:30 p.m. The lecture is open to the public. Advance registration is required, with free admission granted to the first 125 students who register. Tickets are $10 per person. All proceeds benefit the URI Taricani Lecture Series on First Amendment Rights in honor of Amanpour’s first mentor, the late WJAR-TV reporter Jim Taricani.