[LINK] OurTV Pilot meeting on Community TV for Canberra
tomw99 at fastmail.fm
Fri Jun 18 16:45:18 EST 2004
Greetings from Canberra. These are some informal notes from the inaugural
"OurTV Pilot" meeting, held this morning to see if there was enough
interest to have a community TV trial on the Transact digital cable
network. The proposal is to run a trail from December 2004 to the end of
2005. For more details and to join in, go to <http://www.ourtv.net.au>.
The meeting was called George Bray. George will be familiar to many from
his TechTrek tour of Australia
<http://web.archive.org/web/20030422131712/http://techtrek.tv/>. He is now
working for Transact <http://transact.com.au/>. There are about 25 people
at the meeting, from community organisations, academia and companies.
By using Transact, all that is needed for a "TV station" is one computer to
stream the digital video out to the network. Transact has already put in
the millions of dollars in cable and digital set-top-boxes. To test this, a
technical demonstration has been running on Transact for the last few
weeks. Video content has been streamed from the ANU over AARnet (the
university network) to Transact and set to home set-top-boxes. I was
skeptical when this was first suggested, but it actually works and I have
seen it on the set-top-box in my "Smart Apartment"
Grangenet <http://www.grangenet.net/> has offered its high speed research
network and storage, plus some scientific video content, as part of the
trial. This would cut out much of the expense and complexity of using a
satellite network for obtaining content. There may be potential to have
researchers on multimedia and video contribute technology
The prepared agenda of the meeting had speakers from Transact, Grangenet
and other organisations. This got interrupted with interesting questions
from the audience from about the way content from independent film makers
could be incorporated and the problems with community TV in Sydney and
There were also some interesting issues raised, as regulations allow for a
cable Community TV station, but none has ever been approved in Australia.
In practice it is likely the regulators will require the station to operate
as if it was using radio spectrum.
As with many technology based services, the meeting had most difficulty not
with the technology, but the social and political issues. Community TV
requires community input and difficult issues of standards and choice of
content. Some of these issues might be avoided by cleverer technology, but
it still requires difficult decisions.
Emergency services use of the network was also discussed. This has some
interesting crossover to work on web emergency services . As I noted in a
talk Transact survived the Canberra bush-fires well
<http://www.tomw.net.au/2004/enetp.html>. Emergency services might
distribute digital video on what to do in an emergency via the network.
What I find most interesting in all of this, is the potential to use the
Internet and the web as an alternative model for the operation of a "TV
station". The TV station becomes like a web site, where content providers
upload to a server and this is put through an editorial process and
scheduled for distribution. Some of the technology used for EPGs and TiVo
type devices might be used, as per my talk to the ACT Filmmakers' Network
Transact already has a commercial video on demand (VOD) service on it for
pay-per-view movies. If a VoD service could be provided for community use
it might remove many of the difficult management issues of community TV.
More sophisticated subscribers could select material from the community VOD
to view directly when required. This would lessen the completion between
different community groups for air time. The broadcast community TV channel
would then be a "best of the VoD", for those people wanting a less
interactive TV experience.
Tom Worthington FACS tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd ABN: 17 088 714 309
http://www.tomw.net.au PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617
Visiting Fellow, Computer Science, Australian National University
Publications Director, Australian Computer Society
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