News Picture Quality

Is the quality of the video we’re being served on the news decreasing over time? I rather suspect it is.
What am I talking about? Well go back to last Wednesday morning, and watch BBC Breakfast. This is a programme with a significant viewership and sizeable resource. But one of the items on the programme was about an interview and a book that Amanda Knox has written. We were shown a recorded report on what she had been saying, and then went live to BBC reporter Peter Bowes in Los Angeles. Bowes was sitting in a studio wearing a suit and was miked up.
However the pictures and sound seemed to have been delivered via IP and the quality was similar to what you’d expect from Skype on modest broadband connection. That is to say, the video quality was not even SD (never mind HD) and there were lots of interruptions and cutting in and out. There were also sizeable delays between the Salford studio and remote location making conversation difficult. And this is coming from one of the biggest cities in the US.
In recent weeks I’ve seen similar types of connectivity from places like Reykjavik to Sydney. I’ve just seen similarly poor-quality video from another major US city – Cleveland.
Look – I understand that if the pictures are coming live from some war torn part of the world, or the correspondent is undercover somewhere like Zimbabwe, the pictures will not be great.
But satellite technology is smaller than ever, and if Sky News is able to broadcast live footage of one of its reporters being “arrested” and taken away in a van from Tiananmen Square, then I’m sure that in a major western city with all its connectivity, we are capable of getting better pictures. And ironically, while pictures from Cleveland were low-quality, the same bulletin had a perfect HD satellite link-up with Islamabad in Pakistan.
I realise that budgets are being cut, and when the technology works well, IP can be an excellent solution for delivery. But given that the average size of televisions is getting larger and larger, and we’re moving from HD to 4K, the idea that sub-SD internet footage is acceptable is just wrong. If connectivity is not robust enough and of decent quality, then lets not go around ditching satellite just yet.