Television

Newsroom tech assuming relevance in India

NEW DELHI: "India today has more news channels than any other country in the world. And newsroom technology as a subject, is steadily assuming significant relevance to India’s populace," said Rajya Sabha MP and former minister of state for information and broadcasting, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Delivering the inaugural address at the Newsroom Tech India 2003 international conference and exhibition, organised by Exhibitions India Pvt Ltd, in New Delhi on 3 September, Naqvi added that offering 24/7 news channels presented its own set of challenges.

Exhibitions India is a leading organiser of focused international trade shows and events in the country. Star News was the co-host for the event.

There is keen competition among various news channels to create their own identity. The popularity of the channels have increased tremendously, with new news channels being launched nearly every month or so. "News channels have even influenced the way politics and politicians conduct themselves in this country," he observed.

Naqvi noted that the lifestyle and the manner of presentation of the politicians themselves had undergone a sea change with the advent of news channels. Political parties have started appointing spokespersons for television specifically as they have become very image conscious.

According to Naqvi, once KU-band direct-to-home (DTH) television service comes into being, it will become easier to carry news into the rural areas.

Earlier, welcoming the delegates, Exhibitions India Pvt Ltd MD Prem Behl said television has brought communities together as never before. "With the onset of satellite TV, especially, news TV, there has been a paradigm shift in the manner in which we receive and imbibe information," he said.

Behl added, "Today, the total number of channels broadcast into India has increased to 152, of which, 64 are regional channels, and the thrust is on or exclusive 24/7 news channels. "Thus, today, news is big. The news channel market is one of the world’s most potential and lucrative markets. Behl said, "Indian news channels are growing by 24 per cent and according to industry estimates, broadcasting revenues could grow from $1 billion to $2.9 billion by 2007."

The panel for the opening session included Leitch Asia Ltd MD Karlton Burn, Gujarat Samachar CMD Shreyan Shah, IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd vice-chairman Ram T Hingorani and Benchmark Microsystems Pvt Ltd president Ashish Mukherjee.

Adding that newsroom technology was a very relevant topic today, Karlton Burn thanked the organizer for allowing him the opportunity to grace the event. Shreyan Shah added that technology is changing at lightning speed. Today, news takes hardly 36 minutes to travel from one part of the country to another. News gathering itself has acquired the latest technology," he said.

Ram Hingorani mentioned that barring CNBC, all of the news channels were broadcast free-to-air (FTA). "Today, news gathering has become elegant, and lots of cosmetics (changes) have come in," he noted.

Mukherjee touched on some of the challenges facing newsgathering and newsrooms today.

According to him, "These include the increasing use of new devices, possibly modified phones; capturing and preservation of meta data; the increasing use of IT as an infrastructure - with more IT methods being used for moving files around; a very high level of integration among the various segments of the newsroom; new delivery formats such as MPEG-4 coding, news on demand and subscription of news; developing new business models to support all of these."

Chairing the first working session on `Newsroom Systems and Installations,’ K M Paul, engineer-in-chief, All India Radio, said that an exclusive conference on newsrooms and news related matters indicates the significance of news in our daily life. "News empowers our knowledge. There are many processes involved in gathering news. The point is that the entire process has to be shared." In this context, time is of utmost importance, he said, adding, "The value of news is inversely related to the amount of time. That is, we need modern systems and technologies to gather and present news in the minimum time possible, so as to retain and enhance its value."

Speaking on electronic news production systems (ENPS), Anthony Prangley of the Associated Press, UK, said: "This is a newsroom system designed for journalists, by journalists. It includes newsgathering assignment systems, newswire management and ingest, script creation and editing, editorial approval and revision, and control of the broadcasting equipment and archiving." Sahara TV is its first customer in India.

Prangley added that the Media Object Server (MOS) from Associated Press could handle a high volume of news traffic and support multiple newsrooms. It facilitates dragging and dropping stories across running orders as well. The latest version, the ENPS-4, integrates Web and WAP, is MOS compatible, supports browser favourites as well as embedded clips and graphics.

Touching on digital newsroom and server technologies, Dave Chawner, director of applications engineering, Leitch Asia Ltd., said that a major trend is the shift to storing on videodisc instead of tapes.

He highlighted that the key requirements for newsrooms include multichannel ingest from satellite; ENG and tape sources; rapid access for viewing new content; quick cut-edit for breaking news; craft editing for ‘sensitive’ content and effects; immediate availability for studio playout; remote content access; and content tracking.

He said the server environment offered a multi-user environment, allowed content sharing and direct, on-server editing, as well as low-res proxy versions. It also allowed file transfer to and from remote locations.

Introducing the Leitch environment, Chawner said: "All users have equal shared access to content. We offer a shared storage environment." Leitch’s shared storage technology, the RAIDSoft patented SAN management, he added, "is now finding its true strength."

According to published reports, Sahara Samay Rashtriya, the 24-hour news channel of the Sahara India Group, has invested over Rs. 2000 million in what is considered as Asia’s largest digital newsroom. It has tied up with five international technology vendors - Leitch Inc., Associated Press ENPS, Omnibus Systems, UK, IBM and Shaf Broadcast for its newsroom located at Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi.

Some other eminent national and international speakers at the conference included Timothy O’Brien, Partner, Media and Entertainment Industry, IBM Global Services, Asia Pacific, Japan); Siddharth Bolurker, 3D product specialist, Softimage Canada; Vynsley Fernandes, director - Operations, Star News; Rahul Nehra of EuropeStar Limited; R. S. Chauhan, vice- president-Engineering & Operations, Sahara India TV Network; Ashok Bharti, country manager, Inmarsat Limited; Ajay Pal Singh, vice-president, Beehive Systems Ltd; YP Singh, vice president Technical, Zee News; S. Venkataraman, zonal manager (North), Emerson Network Power; Sonal Srivastava of RB Comtec and Sadanand Patil, South-Asia business manager, video business unit, Tektronix (India) Limited.

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