The future of R&D&I at ARD in Germany

Michael Eberhard (SWR)

Public service media in Germany is provided by the nine self-governing regional members of the ARD, as well as the national ZDF and Deutschlandradio. Together they offer a wide range of programs for radio and television as well as online services. There is a high degree of collaboration among ARD members, with five cross-functional groups sitting under the general managers and covering video programming, audio programming, finance, legal, production and technology (including commission is known as PTKO).

For more than 60 years, most of the R&D&I activities of ARD (and ZDF, Deutschlandradio, ORF and SRG SSR) have been carried out by IRT – Institut für Rundfunktechnik – an internationally renowned research center for technology broadcasting and media. Around 100 employees worked in Munich, working closely with affiliated broadcasters and partners from industry and research. Over the years, the IRT has developed new formats, production technologies, metadata solutions, hybrid radio and television technologies, expertise around cloud production and IP distribution, etc.

The closure of the IRT in 2020 has raised questions about how technology research at ARD should be handled in the future. The answer comes in the form of a new network approach based on a series of competence centres.

Five new competence centers

Previously, the PTKO had many different working groups that each had their own contract with the IRT, often working in parallel on the same topics. To ensure the future of shared technology services across ARD, these working groups are now part of an overall portfolio within five networks that sit under the PTKO. The five networks deal with production management, production, IT, distribution and digital development.

A central office brings together the presidents of the various networks. It functions as a sort of clearinghouse for questions and needs, and for sending experts to groups such as the EBU. Recently, the networks are responsible for a set of competence centers and a series of agile and interdisciplinary project teams.

One of the first competence centers set up was the CC on frequency management. Based at BR in Munich since mid-2021, he provides centralized expertise on frequency management and related regulatory, standardization and interference issues – currently working with a focus on WRC-23.

Another CC focuses on HbbTV and platforms. Hosted by rbb and WDR, it examines end-user devices, accessibility, user experience and collaboration on the further development of the HbbTV standard.

A CC on AV Media Asset Workflow, hosted by WDR and SWR, examines the overall process of playing audio and video over the public Internet, from encoding, transcoding, and streaming to the player or end device.

Launched in early 2022, CC Production and Infrastructure is based at SWR and HR. It will examine the development of technical infrastructure with respect to audio and video technology, data in media, production workflows, green production, etc.

Also formed earlier this year, the AI ​​and Data Analytics CC, hosted by WDR, will focus on building and delivering standardized, use-case driven AI solutions. His work will include a systematic evaluation of available technologies and service providers and the development of best practices.

With this new structure and approach, PTKO will be an innovator and driver of digital transformation. It is vital for us to work together, editorial colleagues with digital and technical colleagues. We must get out of the era of parallel development. We need a new type of thinking; we want to be more digital, more agile. We are still working on the future; We work together.

This article first appeared in issue 51 of tech-i magazine.

About Ethel Nester

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