IT: Information
IT: Information

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IT: Information

2.6 New media

From film to videotape

Taylor now describes the era when film was replaced with analogue electrical video.

However, despite all these electronic advances, our newsgathering was still all film based – but the next development was not too far away.

In 1976 RCA demonstrated the […] 'Hawkeye' combined camera and recorder as an all electronic concept to replace newsfilm.

This development sparked the imagination of news broadcasters who quickly recognised the benefits of getting away from film with all its processing delays and bulky, expensive telecine equipment and of course its inability to provide live coverage.

By 1979 the ENG revolution was gathering momentum and it soon became unstoppable.

In 1980 ITN became the first UK broadcaster to introduce large scale ENG operations. By 1982 film as a newsgathering medium was dead.

TV news was now moving into the position of being the public's primary source of news, with newspapers accepting that they had lost the battle.

It had taken TV news just 30 years from its inception to reach this dominant position. The news reels of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were long gone and the demand for real up to the minute news was growing even stronger

Well, there were still large areas of the world which did not have wideband cable infrastructure or possess large expensive satellite ground stations and these became the next technological battleground.

These communication dead spots provided the challenge to fire the development of transportable ground stations.

In 1985 ITN formed an alliance with the IBA and McMichael Electronics to develop the world's first SNG uplinks – the Newshawk – which we first used in 1986.


(Taylor, 1995)

RCA (which originally stood for Radio Corporation of America) is the company that manufactured the equipment it called 'Hawkeye', which was one of the first examples of what we now call a 'camcorder' – combined video camera and recorder.

A telecine is a device that converts a film to an electrical video format. When film was used for TV newsgathering, a telecine was then needed to convert from the film to an electrical format for TV broadcast.

A wideband cable is a cable capable of conveying a wide bandwidth signal. For digital signals, that would mean a high data rate – lots of bits per second. However, here Taylor is talking about an analogue signal and he means a cable capable of carrying a wide range of frequencies. In both cases – analogue and digital – a wideband cable is the sort of cable needed to carry video signals and high-quality audio. It is in contrast to narrowband, which would be capable only of carrying less demanding signals, such as telephone-quality audio.

As noted earlier, at first satellite communications could be used only for communication between fixed locations on the Earth, but with further advances in technology, satellite ground stations could be mobile. Initially they could be mounted on a vehicle, but now they can even be small enough to be carried. Satellites allow communication to remote regions of the Earth where the infrastructure does not exist for any other means of communication (communications dead spots, as Taylor refers to them), which allowed for satellite newsgathering (SNG). The (satellite) uplink is the communication path from the ground to the satellite. The other direction is the downlink.

The IBA is the Independent Broadcasting Authority. This was the body set up to regulate commercial television and radio. It became the ITC (Independent Television Commission) in 1990, which in turn ceased to exist in December 2003 when its function was taken over by OFCOM, the Office of Communications.

The Newshawk is a portable satellite ground station, which can be connected to a video camera, used for satellite newsgathering.

Activity 4

What does Taylor say are the disadvantages of film which were overcome by moving to analogue electronic video gathered using the Hawkeye?


Taylor says of the development of the Hawkeye camcorder:

This development sparked the imagination of news broadcasters who quickly recognised the benefits of getting away from film with all its processing delays and bulky, expensive telecine equipment and of course its inability to provide live coverage.

Taylor (1995)

In other words, the disadvantages of film were that:

  • there were processing delays

  • the equipment needed to convert from film to electronic video for broadcasting (the telecine equipment) was expensive and bulky

  • it could not be used for live coverage.


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