Feeds

BBC boffins ponder abstruse Ikea-style way of transmitting telly

'What's it supposed to be, dad?' 'Leave your father alone'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Future broadcasting could resemble IKEA flat pack furniture - with the bits and pieces of each transmission assembled at home, perhaps in ways not intended by the designer - if boffins at the BBC get their way.

The traditional approach is to mix the media before it's transmitted in a linear stream. But brainboxes at BBC R&D are looking at an "object oriented" transmission approach, which envisages the "receiver" - a TV, radio or fondleslab for example - reassembling a bundle of media objects after it gets them.

The ever-increasing computational power of media receivers makes such research plausible. There's an analogy with spread spectrum radio, which became commercially viable decades after it was conceived and first demonstrated, because of the lowering cost of computation. Today's 3G transmissions increase spectrum efficiency for a network because the "terminal" is doing much more graft.

The O-O transmission idea isn't new - here's a paper [PostScript format] from 1997 on the subject, and another from 2004, for example - but it is more viable every day.

There are some advantages of putting together the bits and pieces at the receiver, as the BBC's Tony Churnside explains in this recent blog post.

One is that the method makes it easy to serve content set up for lots of different kinds of platform, so the stream can include elements for all devices and the client chooses the most appropriate one. Another is that it offers the listener more choice: you could choose where to "sit" during a transmission of a live performance, or adjust presets as on an equaliser.

The technology might even, as the BBC's Churnside puts it, allow "a viewer to have the programme content tailored to their taste or mood".  No doubt some would wish to replace an objectionable interviewee - Ed Balls or Nigel Farage perhaps - with something more soothing, producing customised news automatically.

Indeed the blog post does acknowledge such a concern:

"How do we deal with phenomena like media bubbles and conformation bias? What are the implications of this for the writing and production process?"

It's likely to undermine creative confidence even further if viewers insist on always "voting" for a happy ending.

It's hard to see just why any of this requires complex additional processing at the receiver end, and we can usefully recall what sank the object-oriented software hype of twenty years ago. In the early 1990s, every software powerhouse in the industry was touting O-O as the future of software. Many predicted that users would pick and mix components, rather than use monolithic software packages. It was the Cloud Computing or Big Data of its era.

What happened was that the components added complexity and often sapped resources - but weren't perceived to offer much more value over a monolithic bundle. Features were valued over choice. So for retail software, monolithic won the day.

But don't underestimate the appeal of O-O transmission to two groups of people. One is BBC middle management, who will form "a metadata working group" at the drop of hat, and spend years having meetings which typically achieve nothing - but consume a lot of license fee money.

The other group is TV manufacturers, who are facing a grim future as undifferentiated, commoditised floggers of flat panels. O-O might allow them to sell more expensive sets.

And with 3D flopping, they need some magic marketing woo from somewhere. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.