THE BLOG

The Not-So-Distant Future of Broadcasting

26/06/2014 15:19 BST | Updated 26/08/2014 10:59 BST

A rainy, chilly day in the 1970s. You're a broadcasting journalist for the BBC, making your way to the site of a by-election in a key constituency. Behind you - your camera man, hauling along a 25 pound ominous looking box of metal (that would be your Ikegami video camera, at the time the most portable and high-tech model).

Your team takes about an hour to get everything plugged in and the satellite transmission in place, and, finally, you're ready to shoot - only to be faced with a downpour as you start to interview the Tory candidate. Terrible visibility and sound - but at least there's a clip for the Nine O'Clock News...

Between then and now, both viewers and broadcasters have seen incredible improvements in broadcasting: from high resolution video cameras and fibre optic transmission networks, to the 24 hour news cycle powered by the internet... yet on location, reporting has stayed very much the same.

But now, we are on the brink of a major breakthrough. Thanks to the latest technological advances, broadcasters can now set up a connection using the fibre optic networks that run underneath our feet - rather than relying on a satellite truck. We recently demonstrated this by connecting the BBC to London Public Services Network (LondonPSN) to broadcast the local elections: allowing the broadcaster to transmit footage of polling in West London via the vast fibre optic network that we installed to connect all 33 of London's Boroughs.

The technology is still in its infancy, but it has the potential to transform the way major events are transmitted - especially the largest planned events. A broadcaster such as the BBC currently has to hire satellite trucks from Europe to cover the largest events in the calendar, but as this technology develops, they will be able to set up connections wherever they need them as little as a day in advance. This will not only save them significant amounts of money; it will also free up their existing fleet to focus on ad hoc breaking news.

And this is just the beginning. We're approaching a future when broadcasters will be able to plug into a fibre network wherever they happen to be - enabling instant, real-time coverage of breaking news as well as planned events. Just as fire engines can currently tap into mains water, journalists will be able to 'follow the news' - arriving on scene and connecting immediately to start broadcasting.

Of course, there is still some way to go before this futuristic vision is a reality, but the technology exists today - and all that remains is to make the right connections. We are tantalisingly close to a world where news can be broadcast instantly - 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world - the moment it breaks.