Broadcast manufacturing association head Peter White gives his take on beating the recession and Project Canvas.

Last November the trade association for broadcast manufacturers, IABM, appointed new director general Peter White. With a background in the IT, business and printing sectors White has seen his fair share of industry shake-ups. BVE caught up with him at the show (stand B56) to get his perspective on the ever-changing broadcast industry and learn more about recent IABM activities.

What activities has the IABM been up recently?

One aim has been to ensure that broadcasters continue to feel comfortable in dealing with suppliers. Last year we devised a code of practice, which takes into account customer relations, environmental factors and business practices. It is gradually gaining traction and last October we made it compulsory for all our members. The code benefits our members as well as broadcasters – they feel that a company accredited by the IABM might lend them extra leverage, particularly when dealing with overseas clients.

This month the DTG criticised the Freeview-style joint IPTV venture Project Canvas for not including key manufacturers in its development. Where does the IABM stand on this issue? 

As an association and as an associate member of the DTG we agree with its stance. While we welcome Ofcom’s minimum standard of broadband for the nation, which Project Canvas would go some way towards fulfilling, there is still a question mark as to how this is delivered.

As things stand, it seems as if the project hasn’t sought sufficient reference from the industry and it is in danger of becoming a monopoly. And it’s not just manufacturers being excluded, other broadcasters such as Sky and Virgin don’t seem to be getting the same exposure in formulating the standard.

Recent research conducted by the IABM revealed that thebroadcast manufacturing sector decreased last year by 4.4%. What advice do you have for technology companies trying to beat the recession?

One of the issues facing many traditional suppliers is that the rate of technological change has occurred at the same time as the economic downturn. Broadcast manufacturing is moving towards a more generic IT platform and that is taking away from our members’ niche of being media suppliers.

As the kit becomes more recognisable to other industries, new players also start to enter the market. You can’t fight this change and one thing we are doing is to promote training on the newer IT-based systems.

Broadcast engineering is a unique profession but it works two ways – our members have to learn about the newer IT based systems and protocols.

It is also important to remember that you can also outsource levels of technology to specialists and concentrate on innovating in the areas you know best. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

The recession has hit broadcasters too, how have client practices affected the way your members do business?

As broadcasting moves from tape to file, many of our members have to deal with a group of suppliers, project managers or systems integrators rather than a single chief engineer. Also, procurement has moved away from being an engineering-based decision and towards a financial one – so you’re no longer having the same technical discussion  – it’s more to do with return on investment and perhaps the most cost effective production will usually win. Consequently manufacturers need to ensure they deliver efficiently, embrace new workflows, invest in the best kit and, most importantly, innovate.