Words From a Fox Futurist
Sharri Berg talks about managing technological advances
By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/29/2006 7:00:00 PM
Sharri Berg, senior VP, news operations, for Fox stations and the Fox News Channel, sees technology change every day. Her challenge, she says, is “trying to get as nimble as possible” and serve both the stations and the news network, which sometimes have different needs. She has headed Fox News Channel's tech needs since 2001 and was named to her position on the stations level last year. Recently, she talked about the business of change with B&C's Glen Dickson.
Where do you think the mobile-phone-camera technology will be in five years? Could the technology get good enough that it could be a replacement for microwave and satellite feeds?
I think streaming video over a broadband network is a good option for us. It's a component of our news coverage, and it's a component of the different pictures and different sources we use on the screen for breaking news. When we looked at all communications devices our field staff have on their belts as they are going out the door, they've got a Blackberry, beeper and a video-enabled phone. That's a lot to carry, but they still had to rely on a laptop to get the pictures back.
We were looking for a way to do it from one of these handheld devices. Do I see, ultimately, every field staff member having this ability? I think down the road, yes, but I don't know if it's a replacement.
While stations are moving to higher-quality pictures with HDTV, viewers are looking at lower-quality video on the Internet and on their mobile phones. Do you think that video streaming has conditioned viewers to accept lower-quality video on TV that they might have found unacceptable, say, 10 years ago?
Fifteen years ago, to get pictures out of Baghdad, it required sending in a two-ton flyaway unit.
Then five years ago, for overseas war coverage, it was a 15-pound video kit.
Last week, we're talking about a crew getting to a location and powering up and pointing the camera while immediately beginning a stream over a PDA.
I think that the combination of lower-quality video, when that was the only option during the war, was the first step in giving viewers raw video from the scene in a hard-to-access place.
When it's the only picture, it becomes acceptable. I think viewers, as they're using the Web, their expectation is that the quality is going to be streaming-quality video. Somewhere in the middle of this, we'll meet.
Tell me how you go about evaluating new tools that are being used in the field to bring back news to viewers.
Since the digital newsgathering enhancement over the last couple of years that began with the war coverage, there is sort of a predictable experience when experimenting with new technology.
First, you deal with getting pictures from hard-to-reach places, and you're pleased with that.
Then, the immediate next step is how to improve the quality of the feed, the latency, etc.
So you immediately start moving backwards as well as forwards. We're just trying to get as nimble as possible, to find the best tools to gather news, so we can bring more sources of content to air and do it faster and better.
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