DBS 2019 – What the Future Holds for Broadcasters

The ABU Digital Broadcasting Symposium 2019, which took place in Kuala Lumpur from the 4th to the 7th of March, showcased the latest digital technologies and looked at the challenges facing broadcasters in an increasingly competitive age.

The symposium featured an exhibition and a conference, each lasting three days. In addition, workshops and masterclasses focused on as subjects ranging from integrated newsroom systems and the design of OB vans to the opportunities offered by drones and virtual reality.

The theme was ‘Digital Transition and Transformation’. This year marked the symposium’s 15th anniversary. A non-profit event organised by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, its purpose is to enable broadcasters to help their fellow broadcasters in the region go digital, with the support of equipment manufacturers and service providers.

The three-day exhibition saw 60 companies promoting their digital equipment and services.

A conference highlight on the final day was a high-level debate on the way ahead for public broadcasters in the digital age. Senior broadcasters from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Korea, the UK and Germany looked at how broadcasters can best meet the challenge from online competitors.

Among them was the new Director General of Radio Televisyen Malaysia, Abdul Muis Shefii. He said terrestrial television remained popular in Malaysia but stressed RTM’s determination to improve its internet streaming services to attract more viewers.

He agreed with Augustine Hong of Korean public broadcaster KBS, who said public broadcasters were still too focused on traditional media, and needed to offer more “anywhere, anytime” online services to stay relevant.

Lindsey Cornell of the BBC outlined the range of new digital services the broadcaster was offering for laptops and desktops, as well as apps for phones. “There are a lot of new skills to learn when you’re dealing with social media.”

He said broadcasters had a long tradition of understanding their audiences. This gave them an advantage over big tech companies. “We have the ability to produce content that will work for our audiences,” he said.

Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister, Gobind Singh Deo, opened the exhibition and addressed the conference.

He said broadcasters and media organisations needed to implement digital solutions quickly and transform themselves to stay relevant and compete with giants like Netflix and Amazon.

“If we do not develop our own digital solutions and engage with our audiences, someone else is going to take our place. That is why fellow broadcasters from the region need to make use of such events and forums to learn from the experts and work together to achieve these goals and not be left behind.”

He also spoke of the need for greater security and safety of online platforms, a subject later taken up in a session of the conference.

Speakers in the session identified ongoing staff training as one of the best ways for broadcasters to fight threats to their cybersecurity.

They noted that cyber threats to broadcasters were continuing to grow, and ranged from hijacking of their on-air services and theft of information to content piracy.

“We are trophy targets,” Kathryn Brown of Commercial Radio Australia said. “The risks need to be assessed continually, along with regular staff training and collaboration with other essential services that face similar threats.”

Mariette Peters-Goh of WongPartnership LLP said the laws were not enough on their own and needed to be complemented by other measures, including education and awareness, and continuous staff training.

“Cybersecurity is not just the law’s business. It’s not just IT’s business. It’s everyone’s business.”

Syed Mokhsien Syed Mansor of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said while much content piracy was motivated by profit, some was not done for monetary gain, such as when people shared pirated content on closed social media groups.

He said 267 piracy sites in Malaysia had been blocked as of the end of February 2019.

Hamid Nayeri of Iran’s public broadcaster, IRIB, detailed some of the ways the ABU was working with other broadcasting unions to fight threats to cybersecurity.

These included drawing up recommendations for media vendors’ systems, software and services, and on the need for broadcasters to minimise online administrative privileges.

He said regular staff training was “perhaps the most important of all”.

The future of digital radio was another important focus at the symposium. Speakers said radio was booming thanks to new digital audio technologies such as DAB+ that allowed for more efficient use of spectrum, enabling broadcasters to expand their service cost effectively.

Grant Blackley, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo, an Australian FM broadcaster, said he believed fundamentally that audio was in a boom period.

Cath Dwyer, a senior executive with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, agreed. “It’s the golden age of radio,” she said.

The CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner, gave the industry keynote as a representative of WorldDAB, the symposium’s principal sponsor.

She said that in the digital age, audiences expected more from broadcasters.

“We can use digital opportunities to deliver to the changing needs of the audience. Audiences want our content, advertisers like our ability to reach customers and governments want our support in delivering services.

“There are multiple ways of accessing content. Broadcast radio is the backbone of that.”

The ABU Secretary-General, Javad Mottaghi, thanked WorldDAB, the two major sponsors, MCMC, and Rohde and Schwarz, and the other sponsors and partners. He said holding the symposium would have been impossible without them.

A well-attended masterclass on mobile journalism, conducted by South African trainer Viasen Soobramoney, ran throughout the symposium. Also popular was a masterclasses on VR, with participants wearing headsets and marvelling at the latest techniques.

A first at this year’s event was a masterclass on the use of drones in broadcast production, conducted by Ming Tse Lin, an experienced cameraman and drone operator. The humming of drones in one of the foyers of the venue became a feature of the symposium.

The symposium ended with the Best Booth Award, chosen by participants. It went to a new exhibitor, IntegritiPadu Sdn Bhd (IPSB) of Malaysia. The prize is a free booth at DBS 2020, which takes place on the 2nd to the 5th of March, 2020.

Visit http://dbs.abu.org.my


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