reflections 266 digitaltrans

Name it! Yes, naming is the first step in solving a problem. Or problems?
So, we have it – digital transformation in broadcast media! That’s it! That’s the name of the game! And it has been going on ever since media outlets began exploring the Internet.
For more than two decades information and communication technologies have been influencing, implicating and, ultimately, transforming broadcast media. Technologies for streaming video and sound made possible Internet TV and video over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Smartphones and mobile communications opened the doors to plethora of new opportunities in production of audiovisual content, in distribution, in communication with audiences. The game has changed. Television has changed. Regional television has been changing. And CIRCOM Regional took the lead in this ongoing process.

In 2014 HRT - Croatian Radio and Television, hosted the Annual Conference of CIRCOM Regional in Cavtat, Croatia. The slogan was “Regional Public Service: Change, Challenge, Create!”. So, the next 10 years we did just that – we addressed the challenges, we changed and began creating using the new tech. Not surprisingly, we started with devices.

The Future of DroJo was a session during the Annual Conference in Dundalk, Ireland and hosted by RTÉ. Back then, in 2015 Glen Mulcahy of RTÉ and Ola Helnnes of NRK, Norway spoke about how drones could be used for TV journalism purposes – both for newsgathering and live-streaming.

The session about drone journalism, DroJo, was part of an on ongoing process. For quite some time TV professionals had been exploring the capabilities of new devices to be used for production of broadcast video. In the following years drone pictures would become integral part of television production.

Before reaching out to DroJo, first it was multimedia mobile phones (in the pre-iPhone era), then came the smartphone hype and MoJo, the mobile journalism. MoJo enjoyed special attention at the Annual Conference in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Held in 2018 and hosted by Omrop Fryslân, it included “A Journalist’s Guide to the Smartphone Galaxy”, a dedicated session on reporting by using mobile communications and on the innovative nature of this new type of journalism.

In addition to taking on board MoJo, CIRCOM member stations explored the capabilities of mobile to help newsrooms reach out to viewers and cooperate with them in content production. Interacting with audiences via apps was the focus of the session “New Tools for TV Production” in Ponta Delgada in 2017. At this Annual Conference, hosted by RTP, Roman Ondrůj of ČT/Česká televise, the Czech public Television, and Jakůb Liška of the Czech company Natavideo, presented the app iReporter. Developed to be a tool for creation by audiences and carefully promoted, the app was aimed to engage actively viewers in production of video. As the then Head of ČT Peter Dvorak put it “it is instrument, allowing interconnecting the everyday life of its viewers with its own TV broadcasting”.

City Producer was another app made to serve the creative potential of TV audiences. The French team Philippe Baudet and Bertrand Samimi frankly acknowledged that it all started with the development of software, which would simplify production workflow in a small regional TV station in France. And it all ended up as City Producer – the app which gets in one single environment filming, editing and distribution. As Philippe Baudet put it, today all you need is a mobile phone to make a video and content delivery network, CDN to publish it.

On the other hand, platforms as the Appgree, a product from Spain, presented by José Morán, were dealing not with creativity rather than with communication and feedback from viewers. The app exploited technology that allowed for getting accurate group opinion. It also made possible listening to the audience as one whole.

Yet, mobile was not the end of the road – that`s how Mika Rahkonen of YLE, the public service broadcaster in Finland, approached the MoJo. At the 2017 Annual Conference in Ponta Delgada, hosted by RTP, his session “It’s Not the Device, Stupid!” was about going beyond mobile. It was all about change of habits, said Mika. “It is not the device people love. It is what the device enables them to do”, read one of the slides of his presentation. So, let’s make using devices as easy as possible, suggested Mika and laid on the table a concept of user oriented personalization and personalized notifications.

We planned a series of sessions on emerging technologies for the 2019 Annual Conference in Novi Sad, Serbia, which was hosted by RTV/Radio Televizija Vojvodine. In his presentation “Revolutionize mediaDarko Ratkaj of EBU put the development of media technology in the wider perspective of marketing and competition and of consumer`s behaviour. In this context digital transition was a way for any media to stay competitive and technology was the enabler (not limitator) which provided consumers with multiple opportunities to get the content they are looking for.
Furthermore, we stepped into the realm of artificial intelligence, the AI. Jarno Koponen of Yle spoke about how can new technologies make content more relevant to people by using AI in news production . Getting a smart news assistant, which was learning from lock screen notifications was only one example of this. Yet another application of AI was an app that was letting people know their own behaviour – a type of data that would be difficult to get from big platforms and social networks.
The Rise of the Robot Reporter, a session presented by Robin Govik from the Swedish Mittmedia, was a conversation about the application of artificial intelligence in journalism based on data and automation such as weather reports, thus enabling journalists to do what robots can not – investigations, content on politics and economy, columns etc.
In the end, there was a talk about “Connected journalism” – a session about the benefits of de-centralization in news production and how to put together various advanced technologies to let news outlets to tell their stories first and regardless of location it happens!

… And then, just within months the COVID-19 struck. Lockouts and the need for social distancing completely changed existing workflows and practices. De-centralization of news operations, work from home, endless online conferencing, messengers videos replacing live feeds...Tech innovations which we discussed at the CIRCOM Regional Annual Conferences turned out to be the right thing at the right place at the right time. We were one step ahead of the rising trends and we had been serving our members in the best possible way.

Three years in to the COVID-19 crisis. In 2023 at the Annual Conference in Donostia-San Sebastian in Spain, hosted by EITB, we streamlined the technology achievements that implicated media during the pandemia. Guillaume Kuster of CheckFirst and former Media Expert of CIRCOM, moderated the session Innovation and Trends. His presentation “De-cyphering Tech Buzz Words” was aimed at putting an order in the terminology chaos and help understand how can regional broadcast media benefit from ever emerging information and communication technologies.
“Painting the radio” was a presentation by Carlos García-Verdugo of CRTVG who told the story of the new multimedia studio of the regional public service media in Galicia, Spain. The facility became operational recently. It was designed with the idea to be easy to use and always ready to produce with a minimum staff. The studio combined versatile technologies for sound and video so that various types of content can be produced for various platforms without compromising on quality.
With the steep advent of technologies for faking content, mixed reality would not be the most suitable tool for news and current affairs where authenticity of the picture is of crucial importance. However, the challenge was there. Steinar Bjørlykke of NRK and Francisco Ibáñez of Brainstorm Multimedia presented the app Advanced Mixed Realities, AdMiRe. This tool allows for creating equal conditions for taking part in a TV programme for both guests in the studio and remote participants, who are using their everyday smartphones.

Digital transition in regional broadcast media in Europe is in full swing now. But is it really true that this radical ongoing change is just a matter of technology development?
The more we go deep in technology the more we sense that complex new approaches are needed. Digital transformation means change of mindset.