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Sun 5 Apr 2009 02:20 PM

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Small things...

All the talk in the immediate aftermath of a tradeshow invariably focuses on technology. More specifically, the usual dominant topics of conversation in the industry, such as high definition services, mobile TV and IPTV. It is quite right that the industry should discuss and promote these game-changing technologies, however, the development of these services and platforms should always be running in the background of day to day operations.

All the talk in the immediate aftermath of a tradeshow invariably focuses on technology. More specifically, the usual dominant topics of conversation in the industry, such as high definition services, mobile TV and IPTV. It is quite right that the industry should discuss and promote these game-changing technologies, however, the development of these services and platforms should always be running in the background of day to day operations.The complexity involved in their establishment, from network and transmission infrastructure right through to set top box selection, requires several years of work and the region will continue to wait patiently for these various services. In the meantime, there are a multitude of smaller – though no less important issues – plaguing broadcast services in the Middle East and the solutions to most of these challenges could more or less be found under one roof at CABSAT. So, why do these challenges persist?

The issues in question are not big picture problems like the proliferation of FTA channels or rampant piracy. Important issues these may be, the gripes I am referring to here seem to be further down the agenda.

Here is one example. It is a common ploy of commercial TV broadcasters to playout adverts at a higher audible volume than the main programming to ensure they attract your attention. This seems like a reasonable and good-sense practice. However, numerous channels on my IP-delivered pay TV package will broadcast adverts at a volume that not only grabs my attention, but has me scrambling across the room for the remote. And it is easier to mute an offensively loud advert than turn it down and continue paying attention.

In a similar vein, channel surfing often requires the volume to be frequently adjusted in order to maintain a tolerable yet audible level.

The number of companies exhibiting at CABSAT with solutions to balance out audio levels across multiple channels ran into double figures.

iTunes even has a function to balance the levels of a users entire audio collection with the click of a mouse. Is it unrealistic to imagine the collective playout of my pay TV bouquet to pass through a similar filter or for my STB to provide such a function?

Away from audio problems we have the lack of information on the electronic programme guide, if indeed it is operational at all. Channels that do not provide information make up about a third of services leaving the EPG resembling a partially completed crossword. Those channels that provide scheduling information are more often than not incorrectly programmed.

In the past few months there have also been issues with carriage of high profile FTA channels often coming months after fellow customers receive the same service by satellite.

And to add further insult, the price of my subscription package just went up.John Parnell is the deputy editor of Digital Broadcast.

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