Comment: IRT closure is wrong decision of non-technology directors

Broadcasters who are now investing millions more in antiquated SD distribution should also be able to afford the technical future.

The Institute for Broadcasting Technology, IRT for short, is to be wound up at the end of the year. Because even in a second shareholders’ meeting on Friday, the public broadcasters could not agree on a continuation. Now a social plan for the employees is to be developed. The research institute would be extremely important for Germany as a media location. Do the directors think that everything has now been developed in broadcasting technology? Or that everything can be bought cheaper? This is a fatal misconception! What may seem cheaper at first glance is usually more expensive for broadcasters (and viewers) in the long term. You then have to buy more technical licenses, which often do not fit 100% on them.

For decades, the IRT has made a significant contribution to the fact that we have many features in Central Europe that would never have been developed in the USA or Asia. In the 1980s, for example, IRT employee Arthur Heller developed the VPS system, which made it possible to record to the second with the video recorder. IRT man Klaus Merkel is also internationally recognized as one of the most important minds in the HbbTV standard, which brings linear television world and on-demand content from the IP world together. Viewers know HbbTV as the media libraries that can be reached with the red button. But that’s just a little insight into the wide range of IRTs. Had the broadcasting companies not relied on a central institute at that time, there would never have been so many innovations. Current research on broadcasting via 5G is also fundamentally important for the broadcasters, so that they can continue to broadcast terrestrially regardless of the mobile radio operators.

But apparently broadcasters prefer to invest the money in content. The extension of the SD broadcasting of the ARD and ZDF programs via satellite announced by DIGITAL TERNSEHEN a few weeks ago will cost millions in the next four years, with which the IRT could easily have continued to live in a somewhat smaller form.

It would have been possible to successfully lead the IRT into the future. But to do this, the public service broadcaster should have shown responsibility, flexibility and, above all, foresight. Those who do not dare to switch off antiquated SD broadcasting technology do not want technical innovations. Then you should not be surprised if in the future the Amazons and Googles of this world will specify the technical specifications in the receiving devices and the market will drift more and more towards closed and technically incompatible platforms. The IRT stood for open standards, interoperability and free television.

Please also read our message: Institute for Broadcasting Technology will be closed at the end of the year

Transparency notice: The author was an intern at IRT during his studies in electrical engineering and thus gained an insight into the research work there.

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