The FIAT/IFTA world conference held for the first time in Dubai brought together a community of archivists and broadcasters from 40 different countries around the world. A report The FIAT/IFTA World Conference welcomed dignitaries and broadcast professionals to its Save your Archive programme in Dubai last month. Hosted by Al Arabiya News Channel, the three-day […]
The FIAT/IFTA world conference held for the first time in Dubai brought together a community of archivists and broadcasters from 40 different countries around the world. A report
The FIAT/IFTA World Conference welcomed dignitaries and broadcast professionals to its Save your Archive programme in Dubai last month. Hosted by Al Arabiya News Channel, the three-day conference was held for the first time in the Middle East under the theme keeping the past recent.
The conference began on Oct 26. FIAT/IFTA President Jan Muller welcomed the attendees and introduced the various FIAT/IFTA projects. Emphasising the importance of digital archiving, he said: We are all experiencing what it means to enter the digital domain. The broadcast industry is currently in a transitional phase, which is exciting yet, quite complex.
Defining the mission of the organisation he said that connection is a critical element for organisations such as FIAT/IFTA. Forming close association with the involved parties and working together in an open, rewarding atmosphere is the key to success.
This can only succeed by realising the connections with and between the thousands of members, experts, sponsors, and stakeholders affiliated with FIAT/IFTA, he added.
Muller set the ball rolling for the ensuing panel discussions and technical briefings about archiving in todays technologically stimulating environment.
Dubai 2013, according to Muller, has been one of the best and most memorable conferences in the history of FIAT/IFTA.
Following his speech, Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC Group spoke about the specific challenges that broadcasters face in the Middle East.
Barnett lamented the menace of piracy in the region and the lack of sufficient government regulations to track down the illegal broadcast of content. He stated that such practices damage the growth of bonafide broadcasters operating in the region.
There were other presentations by Nabil Khatib, Executive Editor of Al Arabiya News channel and Dr. Peter Thomas, Senior Director Chief Solution Archive Avid. Several discussions on metadata as the cornerstone of digital archiving ensued.
One speech worthy of note was the keynote address by Abdulrahman Al Hazza, President of Saudi Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), who spoke about the digital archiving operations at SBC (see page 60). He said that archiving of radio and television content is imperative to preserving modern history. He also stressed the fact that broadcasters need to understand the importance of archiving, although it may cost millions.
Panel discussions on the future of film scanning the archive perspective and the service providers perspective were also part of the agenda.
Raoul Cospen, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Dalet spoke about the latest innovations in archiving and how saving in the cloud can be a potential solution for the future.
Dorthy Donnan, Head of Libraries at MBC, who played a key role in putting together the conference in the UAE said: The turnout exceeded the number that we expected. The conference was catering for 300 and we had more than 400 attendees.
FIAT/IFTA is an international organisation that started back in 1977 and it is to bring awareness to the value of Audio Visual Archives; the preservation of these archive for future use. The Middle East has some really bad archives and its time they woke up and preserved the history for future generations.
The event also included an awards night for the Archive Achievement Awards in categories such as Television Archive Innovation Award, Best Project Promoting Use of Archive, Best Archive Preservation Award, Best Use of Archive, Best Archive at Risk, Best Archive Research, Most Innovative Archive.
Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC Group
Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC addressed the conference on the opening day of the event. He pointed out that Middle East broadcasters are operating in a complex neighbourhood, with specific challenges. Getting content in and out of here is a tough task. He added that in a region of 350 million people speaking a similar language, there is a huge opportunity for media companies.
He said: Our neighbourhood is wealthy and it is growing at a rate of 5%. Media in this part of the world is TV and TV is on satellite, which is largely free to air. When we broadcast the final episode of Arab Idol, back in July, 92 million people watched it.
We started 20 years ago based out of London, broadcasting on satellite. We could broadcast outside of the clutches of governments and we kept it free for any set-top box to carry.
According to Barnett, satellite penetration was low back then. Today, with more than 700 free-to-air channels, satellite penetration is more than 97% in the region. It grew from 15-90% in three years in Iraq. During the Arab Spring, the news content was highly sensitive and there was a greater appetite for that.
MBC1 is our largest channel as it gets a share of 24% viewership in KSA.
TV is a very dominant form of broadcast in the region. TV matters a lot in this part of the world, especially locally produced content. The top 25 programmes in Saudi Arabia offer local content. Compared to the content broadcast on TV say ten years ago, today we have a larger demand for local content. A show like Arab Idol is a local show although it is based on an international format, he added.
Commenting on the current scenario, where international formats are increasingly being adapted locally, he said: I would say it is an opportunity and a challenge. The metadata was there, the formats were there, now it is incumbent upon us to make that shift to ensure that the actual management of the content is as easy and transparent as when we offloaded it from the US.
Barnett also touched upon the issue of the staggering pace of technology.
Its technology anarchy out there and if we have to win, we must make sure our content fits on all different platforms. There are new satellites on different positions today and encrypted platforms are multiplying.
He lamented the limited opportunity private operators receive in a region dominated by wealthy state broadcasters, with no commercial goals to fulfill. It is challenging to deal with industrys unique terms of commercial viability, he mentioned.
Our frustration is when some government channels encroach on commercial territory without logical commercial vision, he said.
Lastly, he commented on the regions advertising market, which is still emerging, thereby, putting significant challenges on the media.
The ad spend in this region is vastly lower. The good news is that advertising will continue to grow, the bad news is we have less money. We are constrained in what we can do with limited advertising budgets as the pay-TV market has limited reach in the region, Barnett revealed.
A big chunk of the market relies on capital from individuals and governments, which makes it a tough market for commercial players.
Abdulrahman Al Hazza, President of Saudi Broadcasting Corporation
Abdulrahman Al Hazza, President of Saudi Broadcasting Corporation spoke about the importance of archiving and how the region has been late in responding to this pressing need.
Archiving is something we have always believed in. Even if we pay millions, it is worthwhile to save our history. We have no records of the fifty-year period of TV broadcast in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At that time, broadcasters lacked the vision to preserve this legacy.
He mentioned that with advanced archiving options available today, archiving has become more of a default choice for broadcasters, which was not the case decades ago.
We used to record on big tapes, which were re-used over and over again. Storing these unwieldy tapes was a big issue, as a result of which, these tapes were left to deteriorate. Salvaging content from these old tapes is a challenge in itself, said Al Hazza.
Another challenge is the different types of tapes that carry the recording. This is a complicated process as it requires material to be preserved in different formats.
Saudi Broadcasting Corporation has undertaken a massive project to archive its 350,000 hours of footage. These will be saved and digitised for future reference. The building of a database is already underway.
There are no labels on these tapes, nor are they referenced. We need to expand storage capacity to deal with hundreds of hours of recordings. The next phase of this project will begin soon, he added.
Taking one step could save a lot of effort and time and resources, said Al Hazza and recounted an incident from his past, when he and his colleague at Saudi TV News decided to record the daily bulletins for keeping records.
I used to be with broadcast radio till 1984, and then I moved to TV news. We had a daily news bulletin. People would come and ask for footage of our bulletin; we had difficulty retrieving that material. A colleague and myself decided to set up an archive. We began to record each news bulletin and kept them on shelves for ready reckoning. That was the solution we had. We had the vision but lacked the means to execute it.
It was an experiment that paid off. Today, the broadcaster has 33,000 of news recorded and preserved with the dates.
Radio is yet another medium that needs attention. In terms of size, it is smaller than television but no less important, explained Al Hazza, adding that there are 500,000 hours of radio content in Saudi Arabia.
It is our treasure, which we must respect and preserve. We need to implement a mechanism to save the material. While preserving the content is important, equally important is its referencing. We need to save the details of the stored content, cultivate it and use it for the education of future generations.
In all of our new projects, we are paying attention to archiving from day one. We believe in saving the past for the future, he commented.
He also reiterated the potential to monetise these archives. Calling it intellectual property, he added: Once our archives are done, we will charge for information to private entities although we will continue to offer the government entities any material for free.