Antonio Arcidiacono (EBU Director of Technology & Innovation)

Broadcasting is always on. Like water from the tap or power from the wall socket. But what happens when things go wrong? Or go really wrong?

These last two years have shown us that, even in Europe with our stable institutions, relative wealth and some of the most developed infrastructures in the world, things can go very wrong, very quickly. From extreme weather events to wars, terrorist attacks and a global pandemic, sadly it seems we are in a period of great upheaval.

When faced with this kind of trauma, people still expect and need to be able to turn on the tap and plug in the devices they rely on. They also need to have access to reliable and trusted information, flowing even when the world around is shaken to its core. Especially then. This is within the remit of public service media organizations.

Do we really see the provision of media as critical infrastructure? The EU’s NIS2 Directive, which updates the cybersecurity rules introduced in 2016, must be implemented by Member States in 2024. It concerns sectors which “are vital for our economy and society and which rely heavily on ICT, such as energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, drinking water, healthcare and digital infrastructure.

Businesses that operate services in the above sectors will be required to take appropriate security measures and notify the authorities of serious incidents. It is noteworthy that media is not listed among these sectors, although some countries are choosing to include media companies in scope for national regulations.

Whether or not they fall under the NIS2 requirements, the services provided by EBU Members – and especially their news and information services – must be considered as critical for society in times of crisis. And this means prioritizing resilience and business continuity and developing appropriate strategies.

Previous crises have exposed the weakness of power grids, showing that having one single infrastructure does not provide resilience. For electricity, a multi-layer solution is necessary, combining the power grid with local or individual power generation and storage. The same goes for the distribution of information.

Approaching MARS

Media companies must proactively adopt resilient distribution approaches. These will always need to incorporate the four key principles: multilayer, anywhere, resilient and sustainable. I like to call this the ‘MARS’ approach, where a structural integration of native IP broadcasting and online infrastructures guarantees the necessary resilience, sustainability and quality of service.

Multilayer, because it combines different native IP infrastructures. Anywhere, because, thanks to the satellite component, it covers 100% of the territory complementing terrestrial networks that cover nearly 100% of the population. Resilient, because of the integration of different infrastructures and the possibility to use battery- powered endpoints. And sustainable – both financially and environmentally – with the smart use of edgecasting to reduce CDN costs, in combination with a common satellite IP delivery and, in mobility, a common 5G broadcast for cellular phones. Even outside times of crisis, the MARS solutions improve efficiency and resiliency, while potentially reducing energy consumption.

For mobile services, the MARS approach involves a combination of 5G cellular and 5G broadcast systems. Cellular networks alone can be compromised in times of crisis. FM networks are slowly disappearing in several European countries, and smartphones do not have FM or DAB receivers. The best solution for distribution of essential information, therefore, is 5G broadcast to smartphones which are battery powered and present in the pockets of most of the population.

The PSM community must take responsibility for business continuity management and ensure that we have sustainable plans in place for normal times and for the times of crisis. This means developing resilient, integrated multilayer IP infrastructures, from production to distribution, and working with the industry to facilitate the implementation of the MARS strategy*.

*See also EBU Recommendation 156

This article first appeared in issue 58 of EBU tech-i magazine.

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