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EBU: broadcasters must take control

Simon Fell says he has become the EBU director of Technology & Innovation at an exciting time for public service broadcasters.

Simon Fell says he has become the EBU director of Technology & Innovation at an exciting time for public service broadcasters. Considering what he regards as the most important IBC ever staged, he said: “There is a great unraveling of many new technologies before us, and the EBU is in a great position to help broadcasters make the right choices for the future.

“Here at IBC we are going to see lots of new tricks to be played with audio, and there will be all sorts of conversations about 4K and new methods of workflow,” he added. “Different file formats and workflows are what people have to contend with. If you talk to production and post specialists they are all grappling with different niche solutions to deal with the massive floods of data we get from new digital cameras and huge shooting ratios.”

Big data equates to big headaches, and Fell tempers his enthusiasm for UHD TV with another warning. “It is not just about high resolution, but about a package of technologies that are either with us or just around the corner. These could be bundled to give broadcasters and consumers a more compelling 4K story,” he said. “We have the whole issue of frame rates still to be bottomed out, and then we have the high dynamic range issue as well. There is a lot of work going into the development of HEVC codecs, and the bitrates that will be achieved.”

What about the public service doom-mongers? “In fact it is the best time to be a broadcaster because there are many more ways to reach the viewer,” said Fell. “It is important to have a cohesive approach so that you don’t have to break your back every time you want to develop the same content/same audience. But it is hard for broadcasters to deal with so many different manufacturers’ interfaces.”

The real challenges are obvious. “Spectrum is what so many of our members rely on. For many their markets are terrestrial, and there are challenges around getting any growth. And launching new HD services is going to be difficult if the necessary UHF spectrum gets used for other purposes,” said Fell.

“At the same time broadcasters don’t need to be totally defeatist because opportunities will arrive to put their content on other media,” he added.

“We are talking now about how EBU members can control their own destiny, and make use of new technology without losing sight of the security aspects,” he added. “It is important that you take into account the best practices of IT at the same time you are doing this. It is time the tension between IT and engineering was wiped away, and we all make better use of each other’s skills.”