EBU and SMPTE debate media industry's future

The Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE), along with the EBU, opened a joint symposium in Geneva this morning (May 14) with a futurological debate over what's in store for television.  

On the morning panel of the Forum on Emerging Media Technologies, chaired by Ruurd Bierman of Dutch public broadcaster Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO), were Brigitta Nickelsen, Head of Business Development & Operating for Radio Bremen; Director of Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) Gilles Marchand and EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre.

Ms Deltenre said that in comfortable society television was, essentially, about being entertained. However, she said this fact did not limit television's proven power to bring momentous change, citing the Arab Spring as an example.

Looking to the future, Ms Deltenre said audience fragmentation – using multiple devices over various delivery networks – would increasingly mean live content, especially sports and big entertainment events, would be the key to keeping viewers tuned to broadcast channels.

She said: "Consumers don't care about the delivery platform, just the content they want. The result is that audiences are watching more television than ever before – even if some of it is not from conventional television channels."

Ms Deltenre said that this had to be weighed against the high cost of live content, particularly newsgathering, which risked limiting public service broadcasters to  commercially justifiable content. News does not lend itself readily to pay TV and, as newspapers have found, there is always an alternative free source of content, Ms Deltenre suggested. 

For her part, Brigitta Nickelson set out five theses to guide visionary thinking, which were:

• anyone who claims to understand the future is either a multimillionaire or a charlatan; 
• we do not overrate the rapidity of innovation, we underrate it; 
• public service broadcasting will continue to exist, but only if it shifts from programme production to multimedia content production; 
• necessary change depends not on technical facilities but on change management;
• we risk underestimating the impact of innovations because we are out of touch with the next generation.

RTS Director Gilles Marchand felt that in five years' time PSB would still be independent and stand for quality, but that they would develop using new technologies through interactivity. Linear programming will still be important, but content will be more thematically organised and bi-media in nature, he said.

Photo: (left to right) Brigitta Nickelsen, Radio Bremen; Gilles Marchand, Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS); EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre 

© EBU 2012