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Words From a Fox Futurist

Sharri Berg talks about managing technological advances 10/27/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

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.

September
October