The new report from the Future of Innovation in Television Technology (FITT) taskforce is testament to the resolve that exists within the industry to deliver innovation that consumers and viewers want, and to keep the UK TV technology industry globally competitive, writes David Docherty, chairman of the Digital TV Group (DTG).
The highly anticipated conclusion of the 18-month collaborative industry project, the Future of Innovation in Television Technology (FITT) taskforce, was released on 20 May at the DTG Summit in London. Presenting the findings, Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, explained, “The FITT report helps to clarify a number of important issues, opportunities and challenges facing the UK television industry. We will take careful note of the specific recommendations for government and will work closely with the industry-led Next Generation TV Planning Programme.”
Beginning in September 2012, the report covers new reviews of consumer trends, the evolution of devices and applications, computing for the creative industries, data management, and future networks and infrastructure.
Driven by a steering group of 20 senior industry executives, it makes 13 recommendations based on the evidence from this work. These include the establishment of a Leaders Assembly to guide a Next Generation TV Technology Planning Programme; a Technology Advocacy Programme for innovators to share newly developed technologies and applications; and a cross-industry working group to respond to the challenges of big data in television.
Many of the recommendations were guided by new consumer trends research which shows that although viewing to the main television set remains stable, it is increasingly augmented by viewers choosing to watch on any device, any time, both inside and outside of the home. The taskforce believes that these trends, coupled with the increasing connectivity of devices, people and content, create massive business potential for UK media companies. However, consumer anxieties about privacy remain the biggest barrier to realising these ambitions, and the report highlights the need for transparency from providers – potentially delivered via an industry-led review of self-regulation – and digital literacy programmes for consumers.
The taskforce report also set the scene for Ed Vaizey’s wider address at the DTG Summit where he spoke in more general terms to the UK TV industry and encouraged the organisations involved to be bold in their thinking, declaring that they needed to “accelerate thinking on the feasibility of a longer-term move to the new DVB-T2 transmission with MPEG-4 or even make the jump to the new HEVC compression standard.”
Referring to the uncertainty ahead of next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in Geneva, Vaizey suggested that a “coordinated transition [to co-primary usage of 700MHz] would greatly enhance the longevity of the platform [Freeview] and combine spectrum efficiency with benefits for consumers in terms of the enhancement of universal services and maintenance of platform choice.”
It is issues like this that will make the taskforce report the foundation of a much longer and more constructive process of industry dialogue. Starting in autumn 2014, a TV Leaders Assembly will be convened by Ed Vaizey MP with the DTG to carry forward much of the taskforce’s recommendations, with the aim guiding the industry during this time of rapid change. It is hoped this will bring some much needed clarity of purpose and vision to any future decision making.
The full FITT taskforce report can be found online at http://www.dtg.org.uk/innovation. In addition, Ed Vaizey MP’s speech to the Summit can be read at bit.ly/1mSqfnN.