Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology (part 4 life abroad)


ITN building in Gray's Inn Road
By the time I left my employment at ITN after the completion of the move from Wells Street to Gray's Inn Road in 1991  The media landscape in the UK was a different beast . After a rocky start Direct to Home Satellite in the shape of 'Sky' had started to establish itself as a new media delivery system based on it being  the home of Movies and Sport. Land based Commercial Radio was now an accepted part of the radio  listeners choice. In my next job I was very much involved in the Unix/Ultrix multi user newsroom computer system  business working with large European Broadcasters (as customers) who used the Basys  systems to compile their news bulletins.
Oddly enough even while at Basys I kept my hand in at ITN operating the Odetics cart machine for Channel 4 News early Saturday morning bulletins from their new GIR HQ.
As I was required to, on a rota support broadcasters during 'out of hours' I was provided at these times with a portable(-ish) phone and a home vdu with modem to enable me to dial in to customer sites  and fiddle around fixing problems, I suppose this was unusual at the time but this type of engagement with work is now a feature of modern employment in many fields.

The Euronews Lyon HQ
During my time at Basys I was interviewed and accepted for a job in Lyon (France) as part of a new pan European, multi-lingual alternative to the US's CNN which had wielded so much influence during Gulf War I  this was Euronews and at the new station I worked both in
1990s Production at Euronews
 production and Computer systems roles. The station at that time used a professional  Beta format for editing the news inserts which were then  played back via an Odetics Cart Tape Player, Fixed position satellites were  used for the service distribution across Europe. Satellite TV to the home was at this time 'analogue' and although offering more services than had previously been available the choice was clearly finite.
Euronews was breaking new ground in transmitting so many (5 at start) different audio language tracks to cater for its diverse audience.
During my time at Euronews I got my first IBM compatible windows PC complete with modem (a quick 14,400 baud at the time) and a CD drive too).
Working outside the UK in a multicultural workforce was a great experience for me and the impression that I got was that in France the media was not as important as it had been in England.After a little over 2 years in which the service had become professional and well known to viewers I took up an offer of work in Hong Kong with Reuters TV.
Reuters TV was an evolution of what had been the Visnews agency which had been an international  news agency  part owned by amongst others the BBC .
Coincidentally Reuters TV in the UK was based in ITN's  Gray's Inn Road Building.
GIR was home to Reuters TV 
Reuters TV became integrated into Reuters newsrooms around the world (print and photo') and supplied  international  news 'footage' to broadcasters  in a mixture of paid and barter arrangements, typically the feed of these news events and 'ad hocs' was distributed by using occasional satellite space booked from various operators - during the late 1990s distribution was moved from analogue to the far more efficient digital transmission which meant that Reuters were able to justify permanent satellite distribution channels. While at Reuters part of my work was helping make this new digital distribution happen technically with the introduction of new reception systems to our clients and head-end equipment in Hong Kong. The distribution used a pre-DVB  system that was far less efficient than the MPEG2 and MPEG4 systems in use now. The equipment was great deal bulkier than that used now too.
During my time based in Hong Kong I got to visit news operations around the Far East in places that included Japan,  Taiwan, China, Macau and India - the diversity of operation was wide at around the same time to help me distill my knowledge and experience I started a course of study for an MA in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester.

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