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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Double Distribution, Just Don’t Do It

The next Eurovision Song Contest finals will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan. CC licensed.

How can we best utilize frequencies or bandwidth? The top trick is to get rid of double distribution. Why distribute the same signals twice? If we stop doing such, we will make those frequencies and that bandwidth available to others. Most industrial countries have realized this when it comes to television. They switched off the analogue signals and replaced them with digital ones. Norway is doing the same for radio in 2017. Other countries will follow also when it comes to radio.

But the examples of analogue and digital television and radio are not the only relevant ones. We are also seeing a lot of double distribution divided between broadcasting and the Internet. Some people, usually titled consultants, think that the Internet will be able to take over for broadcasting. This is a wrong, misunderstood and distorted view. Why?

First or bust The final of ESC (Eurovision Song Contest) gathers hundreds of millions of million simultaneous viewers. Very few of those viewers would have been satisfied if they had to watch a recorded version of the events after it went on air live. Sports and news are other examples of such events or programmes, where a recorded version in most cases just won’t do. Just think of the Super Bowl, British royal weddings and the Olympics. Premieres of popular TV programmes also make people want to watch it when it first airs, although they can be equally enjoyed later (but being first or doing something first is something people often strive for, as exemplified through the lines outside cinemas when the newest Star Wars or Harry Potter movie premieres or outside shops when a new iPhone launches.

Even with giant TV successes such as ESC, the latest update on the bin Laden killing or the World Cup final an estimated 30-40 per cent of television viewers watch channels showing other programmes. You can’t find the event which virtually everyone watching television wants to watch. Maybe except for the moon landing.

To upgrade the Internet to be able to handle such volumes of viewers may never be realistically possible speaking from a technical point of view. (There is also a range of other reasons why the Internet should not be the only distribution channel of live TV and radio.) Broadcasting will in other words always (at least in many, many years to come) be needed to technically distribute huge televised events. That leaves a natural question. Why even bother to upgrade the Internet infrastructure to be able to handle such volumes? To make it capable of managing peak times (if peak times are defined as being able to deliver television to everyone) is costly and not necessary.

Bandwith explosion even without TV and radio After all, the Internet even struggles at times to deliver properly on normal surfing. And that is before we have even seen any major cloud computing efforts. Eventually billions of stationary and mobile devices will be depending on each other and centralized servers in order to deliver services. That means a lot of extra data. And that data increase comes in addition to the increased surfing in the population. And they won’t start surfing less data hungry services anytime soon.

I am not saying that people should be banned from watching television live via the Internet. People should be able to enjoy their favourites from their preferred device. But broadcasting will always handle the majority of such distribution, let us rather expand and enhance the Internet so that it can do those things it is created to do, only better.

That will also mean that the Internet can deliver live television to more people, but should it? Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) pushed it to the limits during the World Skiing Championship earlier this year, compromising those people out there that want, need and depend on the Internet for other purposes.

Greed may be good, but for live television and radio, solidarity is what we need.

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