Choice makes Democracy. Personalization goes against this.

Design of personalization in digital services is now focused on mirroring yourself, leaving you in your bubbles.  The real need is to have more people having experience of journalism and what it means making news. This is to be best compared with how one having learned to play piano or violin generally understands better the need of professionalism, without having necessarily themselves vocation of becoming one. 

Antonio Arcidiacono, EBU, July 4, AEJ-BREKO Tech Talk, Brussels.

Is a Gigabit Society possible without fiber networks? What is 5G expected to bring to journalists?

These were the central questions put forward in the debate, first of our AEJ Tech Talks, hold on July 4 in the Press Club Brussels Europe, moderated by Euractiv journalist Samuel Stolton. The event was organized in partnership with BREKO, the German Broadband Association.  All panel members agreed investment in infrastructure and in glass fiber networks are crucial in attaining the goals set forward on European level for a gigabit society providing the best internet connection to all. EBU Director of Technology and Innovation Antonio Arcidiacono brought into the discussions some practical views on what 5G might bring to broadcasters and what it might mean for the work of journalists.

5G refers to an array of networking technologies meant to work in concert to connect everything from self-driving cars to home appliances over the air. It uses new technology emphasizing further the use of the internet to connect and is to offer unequaled speed of connections. This ultra-responsiveness is also important for many industrial applications, such as automation and augmented reality for smart factories. Anthony Whelan, Director of the Electronic Communications Networks and Services at DG Connect at the European Commission (DG Connect) who stands in with his department for the designing and monitoring of a legally predictable (regulatory) environment for electronic communications in the EU, pointed in his intervention to the fact that market resilience proofs to be not sufficient enough to reach the targets whereby Europe should be connected everywhere. The European Electronic Communications Code Directive’s (the Code) that was passed in December 2018 as part of a Regulatory Fitness exercise, is now in process of being integrated into the national legislations. It explicitly intends to facilitate the roll out of new, very high capacity fixed networks by putting less emphasis on competition, making rules for co-investment more predictable and promoting risk sharing in the deployment of VHC -Very High Capacity- Networks. Whelan announced  that at the occasion of  next funding cycles they’ll look explicitly at how to mobilize the funds necessary. Norbert Westfal, President of BREKO and CEO of EWE Tel in Northwest Germany, pleaded for incentives by demand driven subsidies. Now subsidies are too much aimed at supply-side financing of digital infrastructure .  Vouchers to stimulate effective demand of building owners to have FTTH (Fiber to the Home) and FTTB (Fiber to the Building) or FTTP (Fiber to the Premises) is to him part of a solution to mobilize private investment much needed to roll out 5G.  The WiFi4EU initiative should therefore be broadened to private building owners.  In Germany two Länder, Bayern and Hessen, decided to bundle everything concerning digitalization in one ministry, as long term digitalization announces itself as one of the most challenging tasks for the coming years and asks for policy decisions taken on the highest level with knowledge of affairs. Prof. Dr. Kristina Sinimus , since January of this year minister of Digital Strategy and Development in Hessen with Frankfurt as the most known Metropol, explained her ministry is new in the political landscape of Hessen and Germany. It is cross sectoral and interdisciplinary, built up from scrap.  It counts 40 people for now with only one specialized on infrastructure. But this is expected to change quickly. She especially strives for a transparency management also showing locally where they are in building gigabit-society, showing what are the benefits and the challenges to be faced. Discussants all repeated it will not happen without the necessary investments, 5G needing new networks. So the question is also very much a political one as to how best allocate means, how to accompany the mental shift it requires from all of us and how to balance e.g. incentives for investments to SME’s and Multinationals, investments towards cities and rural areas,… It clearly puts the question of solidarity into the forefront.  In Hessen this is present in e.g. the “Digital Dorflinde” project that offers help to both cities and villages that want to invest in local WLAN infrastructure. Dieter Wegener, VP Siemens heading the Companies External Cooperation’s and Chair of the Industry 4.0” grouping of Germany’s Electrical Industry (ZVEI), regularly experiences the tremendous and often unexpected potential of digitization, being in contact with a wide variety of industries. This was also the case when speaking with people from the well known German manufacturer of Sennheiser wireless mikes needing  optimal latency to perform. Getting rid of a lot of cables is also an important plus for broadcasters. Media use is at the heart of connectivity requirements from both industry and households but the media sector does not necessarily gets the needed attention. 5G specification podcasts e.g. give so far not much attention to media market. It opens though perspectives for journalists and challenge them to re-invent their job while staying loyal to the ethical and quality standards needed for maintaining journalism relevant. 

Impact is relevant when e.g. 5G modem is embedded into local private networks. The possibility to  having more and better coverage for life events as cooperation between main broadcasters and visiting broadcasters is rendered more effective, bringing the network into the cloud , driving up efficiency of bandwidth utilization, communicating by IP. It is as such more a quest for quality than of competition, a question also of distribution. New ways of distribution, using all 3 layers (unicast/broadcast/multicast) are to offer new possibilities of storytelling, offering perspectives on new supports for the daily work of journalists. At the occasion of big events (sportive, political, artistic,…) 5G real time camera’s linked to Glass Fiber cables could be used.  Trials by Italian RAI showed how mobile technologies deployed on a conventional terrestrial broadcast network infrastructure can be configured to meet specific broadcast requirements, such as free-to-air delivery, wide-area coverage, and cost-efficient distribution to mobile devices. EBU is seriously investigating the potential of 5G technologies to serve mobile devices from high broadcast towers. ..  The discussion showed we are heading towards a lot of new possibilities that will demand a sense of realism for investment and for solidarity, to balance the use of existing and new technologies. It appeals on journalists especially to get the most out of it by imagining new ways of storytelling, a quality that is to remain central to the job. And this might be the best caution to the future of the job.ASD.