Today, the Belize Bureau of Standards held a session about standards for video. The event was held in light of World Standards Day 2019 under the theme, “Video Standards Create a Global Stage.”  Each year, on October fourteenth, global standard-setting bodies such as the International Organization for Standardization celebrate World Standards Day, to pay tribute to the work of experts worldwide who develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as International Standards. Channel Five joined two other local TV stations to discuss video and standards in the Belizean context. Reporter Andrea Polanco was there and files this report:

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Video is a powerful and engaging way to communicate and these days it is easier than ever to create a video. With technology, it takes only a few seconds and a click of button to create a video. And this innovation has led to significant changes in the quality of videos we create and share, and also how it is accessed. The standards also help to ensure that videos can be used and accessed on any device in any part of the world. And no one knows that more than the news business in Belize. Today, technology has changed the way we are recording and broadcasting to the rest of the world. And that has required local TV stations to change the way they operate since the TV broadcast started in decades ago. The Belize Bureau of Standards, in commemoration of World Standards Day 2019, held under the theme “Video standards create a global stage”, invited local TV news stations to talk about how global video standards have helped them over the years. Production Manager at Channel Five Rick Romero gave a brief history lesson on how News Five has evolved:

Rick Romero, Production Manager, Channel 5

“We basically come from recording video on VHS to recording video on a memory card. The leap from the eighties to now has been very wide.  If you notice, the quality, the first example that I have, VHS wasn’t a very high quality medium. If you notice, you have drop outs which are the little lines at the top. The video is not very sharp. This is from the eighties.   So, we went from VHS which is half inch in terms of the width, to three quarters inch U-matic, which means that the video was recorded on a wider tape.  To do news, we couldn’t carry these tapes around and we went into the hi-8 format; eight stands for eight millimeters. So, it went from three-quarters to eight-millimeters in tape width.   In 2006, we made another change in our recording which is a format called DV-CAM. Digital video came into existence for us and the quality of DV-CAM was much better than the Hi-8.  It wasn’t until 2013 that we changed from DV-CAM and we started to record digitally.  We are still using standard definition which is 640×480 video frame as opposed to HD which is bigger. So, we started with this format, this standard and up to now we are still using it; which means we still have ways to go in transmitting in HD and digital.”

And while TV news stations have made small changes over the last thirty-years – not much has changed. Belize is still lagging behind when it comes to meeting international video broadcasting standards. While some local users and producers of video content have made the switch and are transmitting in purely high definition – many of the video content producers in  Belize is yet to catch up to the global standard.

Jules Vasquez, News Director, Channel 7

“We have no standard. To say that we are still at 480 and that is the truth, and that is where we started out at, if we, in 1982, were transmitting at 480 and in 2019 we are still at 480, it is the complete reflection of the absolute failure of the Broadcasting Authority, of which I am a member. But it is really the understanding that there is a breakdown in the regulatory system. There is no regulator really for broadcasting to set standards. We, Belize, should have done a digital switch over a long time ago or at least ten years ago or started it five years ago. What do I mean by switch over? We should have stopped transmitting in analog. It is really indicative that the standard has overtaken us and left us in the ashbin of history, with this old NTSC 525 lines standard, that is what we use. So, it is really a failure of regulation and of the broadcasting authority which is only really advisory. The problem is that you need a government department in charge of implementation. The Broadcasting Authority is the closest thing we have to a regulator but they only exist to advise the Minister.”

And so if the Broadcasting Authority doesn’t have the teeth to set regulations and guide the implementation of video standards it is left to be seen how the local TV news media will meet that global digital shift. And as Rodolfo Gutierrez explains, standards are important in whichever industry you operate but the BBS can only assist to develop those standards based on what is required.

Rodolfo Gutierrez, Consumer Protection Liaison Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

“The situation of the media houses still transmitting in analog fashion is certainly a point of concern because at the end of the day everything has already transitioned from one type of technology to the other.  So, by probably promoting that but again there is another constraint which is the distribution of it or the accessibility to a lot of people that own the technology or the type of television that they can see digital footage and that can pose a problem.  Our role as the Bureau of Standards will be basically to facilitate. Once that regulator is in place, then we would be able to ensure that whenever they require standards to make the transitions, we can be able to facilitate that type of process.   If you follow a standard from the very beginning you allow yourself to become competitive and able to enter that market where there are other producers that are already following standards. So, if you want to survive, it is not an expense, it is an investment on the longer term basis for you to be able to be profitable at the end of the day and also be compliant to whatever standards are out there. Again, standards are voluntary and not mandatory, unless it is a regulation.”

Channel 5