GEM Sports and Vision247 worked together to break down the walls of Iranian censorship during the 2012 Olympics. We at BroadcastPro Middle East bring you a report GEM Group, a London-based broadcaster that delivers diverse entertainment programming to the Middle East and especially, to the Iranian population had a special task ahead of the 2012 Olympics. […]
GEM Sports and Vision247 worked together to break down the walls of Iranian censorship during the 2012 Olympics. We at BroadcastPro Middle East bring you a report
GEM Group, a London-based broadcaster that delivers diverse entertainment programming to the Middle East and especially, to the Iranian population had a special task ahead of the 2012 Olympics. It wanted to achieve something that no broadcaster had, thus far, achieved in Iran. It wanted to deliver live, uncensored coverage of the entire Olympic games from London to Iranian audiences and this included events in which women were participating.
Team Iran, after all, went with a lot of hope to the Olympic games this year as the country boasted the taekwondo world champion, as well as very strong competitors in wrestling, weightlifting and athletics.
However, due to political and religious restrictions, many of the sports, especially those featuring women have never been aired on state television in the past. GEM decided to change that.
GEMs licence to broadcast coverage of the 2012 London Olympics was approved and the technical information required for the set-up for Olympic feeds arrived just three weeks before the opening ceremony.
“We faced a lot of obstacles and issues given the tight timeframe,” says Parviz Alaei, broadcast manager of GEM Group.
“There were technical issues over playout and the uplink in Luxembourg, through to staffing the broadcast from London.”
To achieve the live broadcasting across the two GEM Sports HD channels, the network required a 24/7 production crew. Just two days prior to the opening ceremony, the broadcaster was still interviewing staff for the new roles and studio preparation and design.
To address its technical challenges, GEM Group turned to London-based broadcast specialist Vision247. GEM had nearly five years experience working on past projects with Vision247, but even so, the timeframe was incredibly short. Within 10 days of receiving the technical information relating to the Olympic feeds, Vision247 was able to provide confirmation that it could deliver both the studio and playout facilities necessary to support the GEM Sport broadcasts.
11 incoming Olympic feeds from W2A Satellite were downlinked from the Vision247 teleport on the roof of the companys central London studio complex. There, the feed was mixed with live programmes from Vision247s digital studios.
Alaei says GEM Sports “operated studio-based analysis in Farsi” with its own presenters and correspondents, some of who were flown in from Iran to cover the Games.
Vision247 employed two outgoing channels via Telehouse, sent to teleport in Luxembourg and then uplinked onto Yahsat 1A, to deliver two full channels of high definition (HD) sports broadcast. Both channels were then downgraded to standard definition (SD) by satellite operator YahLive, to provide a total of four channels two in HD, and two in SD, broadcast free-to-air from 8 a.m to midnight London time for the entirety of the Games, which audiences in Iran could receive via a 50cm satellite TV dish.
“GEM really gave us an Olympian challenge,” says John Mills, CEO of Vision247.
“The project only started with us on July 19 and broadcasting was scheduled to commence on July 25. We were able to deliver the entire two studio set up, arrange downlinks and signal delivery to the uplink site all within just six days. It is a great example of the way Vision247 is able to rapidly react to a customers end-to-end broadcast needs.”
2012 has been Irans most successful Olympic campaign to date, with the country securing three gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, weightlifting and athletics, and a silver in discus.
“GEM Sports HD was the only channel broadcasting all 2012 Olympic sports into Iran. Traditionally, coverage of the Olympics in Iran has been very sparse, with no coverage at all of womens sports. The audience response has been brilliant,” says Alaei.
“The viewers have really appreciated the programming, especially womens sport and in particular, gymnastics and swimming. These are an example of the numerous sports that havent been seen in Iran.”
Viewers were not only able to watch Iran compete in sports such as boxing, mens single sculls, table tennis, mens sabre individual fencing, weightlifting, taekwondo and wrestling, but also for the first time able to cheer on their team in the womens archery, air rifle, sculls and table tennis, all dubbed into Farsi and without censorship.
“I feel we were able to bring the true spirit of the Olympics to the Iranian people and hope we can continue to inspire the next generation,” says Alaei.
“The people of Iran want to watch and be able to talk about Iranian sportsmen and women, so for GEM the focus is now to provide more gymnastics, swimming, and other censored sports, including the next Winter Olympics from Sochi in 2014.”