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Tech allows citizens to drive the news

Delivering TV content in a more exciting way

Wheeler says technology allows consumer to get the information they want, when they want it.






Technology (general)

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Nicholas Wheeler, managing director of multimedia at UK television network ITN, spoke to Spark recently about the future of television and the part technology will play in shaping the industry.

Here is an edited version of the full interview from his recent appearance on Spark.

CNN: What impact is technology having on your business?

Wheeler: Technology effectively revolutionized how ITN has worked during the past few years -- from how we gather news in the first place, to how we deliver news to the consumers at the end of the day. We've even seen, quite recently of course, news being gathered by using mobile phones. And that technology is clearly going to develop as things progress.

I think it's revolutionized our broadband and our mobile phone areas, where, effectively, without the development of some extraordinary technology we wouldn't be in business at all. So in that respect, it's made a fundamental difference to how we operate.

CNN: Will technology radically change the way television stations operate?

Wheeler: I think what's radically going to change is how people consume news, in particular. We believe that all the platforms need to come together, so that consumers will see news -- perhaps hear -- news first on their mobile phone from an SMS alert, or something similar. They will then be able to see video, the first video on a mobile phone, and then they will move into a different space, perhaps have access to a PC and be able to look at broadband content and of course be able to look at television.

We believe that television is still going to be at the heart of our business for a considerable time to come, but these areas will come together and work together as a brand for news.

CNN: In 20 years what will be the most common form of news consumption?

Wheeler: Twenty years is a very long time in this sort of technology. Ten years is slightly more visible, but in many respects three years is hardly visible. It's moving so fast and technology is moving so quickly that it's very difficult to really read the picture that far out.

CNN: Will traditional news mediums become obsolete?

Wheeler: We don't think that television will become obsolete, not at all -- we think that it will have to compete with other platforms. But also, we believe that it will complement other platforms. By working together we believe we can bring a total product to the consumer.

CNN: What's you vision of the future of the media?

Wheeler: Our vision is that the media will develop as a total package. Our future is to bring all these platforms together and make them work as a conducive unit for the consumer to get news wherever they are, whether they are on the move, at home, at a PC, watching a television, we'll be there delivering it.

CNN: Who do you think will benefit from these advances in technology?

Wheeler: The consumer will benefit, undoubtedly. The consumer is going to be able to get what they want, when they want. Everything is moving towards video on demand, news on demand or entertainment on demand, whether it's being able to watch a full film on a little handheld unit, or see the latest pictures as they happen. And we've experienced with a number of very large stories in the London area in recent times how people have turned to their mobile phones to access news on the move, and not only access the news, but actually to create the news. We've been able to put video pictures taken from mobile phones on to the television screen and that's creating some really exciting and innovative new images for people to understand news within seconds of it happening.

CNN: What are your thoughts on the rise of the "citizen journalist," in other words, technology giving all people the power to become news gatherers?

Wheeler: We think the use of mobile phones and digital cameras to deliver images of major news stories is a very exciting innovation and is certainly adding a new dimension to the pictures that consumers now see on their television screens and on their phones. We are very excited about that and think that it is an innovation that is going to generate some new areas.

Also, new technology has brought a new way of shooting pictures to the existing cameraman. Cameras are much lighter. The crews can travel with far less kit, that enables them to get into difficult places far quicker, far cheaper and get pictures back from anywhere in the world in a much faster way than we were able to do before, and that all helps with news budgets and getting people out and about. So it works really on both fronts in delivering a better product in the final analysis.

CNN: What's the biggest impact technology has had on ITN?

Wheeler: The digital age has had an enormous impact on the whole media industry and it's enabled us to deliver content in a cheaper, faster, higher quality, more exciting way. Whether that's the use of mobile phones or the use of the news gathering camera equipment, whether that's the use of the digital editing facilities that are in our news rooms, it's difficult to say which one is bigger than the other, they are all, as a package, an enormous innovation and development for the whole industry.

Of course, without this technology, parts of our business would not exist. We wouldn't have a digitalized archive, we wouldn't have a digitized mobile phone business at all, so in that respect, it's a very enormous break through and innovation for the whole industry.

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