The advent of cloud computing technologies means the broadcast industry is currently undergoing a seismic shift. This transition from traditional hardware-based setups to complex IT-centric systems is fundamentally altering the landscape of media production. Industry veterans Stuart Ray, the Head of Skills and Development at The IABM and Damon Neale, the Managing Director of consulting firm Mediate Solutions highlight the urgent need for a revamped approach to training and development within the industry.

The Growing Demand for Hybrid Skills

Both Ray and Neale identify a growing need for professionals who are well-versed in traditional broadcast technology as well as contemporary IT practices, with a special emphasis on cloud computing and IP workflows. According to Ray, the IABM’s courses dealing with IP, Video over IP, and IP and File-Based Workflows are the organisation’s most popular. He believes that this reflects a significant pivot towards IT-centric capabilities within the broadcast sector.

“It’s important to remember that the fundamentals of broadcast tech haven’t really changed - it’s still ultimately a process of transporting a signal from A to B,” - Stuart Ray, Head of Skills and Development, The IABM

Neale emphasises the scarcity of cross-functional expertise in the industry, “A lot of the public cloud providers are willing to provide solution architects to help design how to best deploy in their cloud,” he says. “They are often absolutely fantastic. The only problem is, they might not understand our industry. It’s incredibly difficult to find people that have a broadcast background and truly understand the cloud because there are such deep skill sets, knowledge, and experience required in each of them,” he says, highlighting the depth of the challenge.

The Challenges of Training

The transition underway will require comprehensive training that melds traditional broadcasting knowledge with modern IT skills. Ray discusses the range of The IABM’s existing courses, noting their appeal to both industry newcomers and seasoned professionals: “Our Introductory courses which cover the fundamentals of AV and Broadcast Tech seem to do well,” he says. Yet, the exact background of these new entrants remains diverse and varied, adding complexity to training needs. “It’s important to remember that the fundamentals of broadcast tech haven’t really changed - it’s still ultimately a process of transporting a signal from A to B,” he says. “It is the process, method and tools which have changed. And of course, they have done constantly over the years - film to tape to digital for example. We still need cables to plug things in or connect devices! We try to offer courses which cover a range of technologies and environments in which they are found.”

Stuart Ray

Stuart Ray, IABM

Neale touches on the psychological aspects of training, noting that change can be difficult and that the shift from a hardware-focused broadcasting environment to a software-driven, IT-centric model can be particularly challenging for traditional broadcast engineers. This cultural and psychological barrier can complicate training efforts as individuals may resist abandoning familiar tools and workflows for new and unfamiliar technologies. “Change can be frightening and worrying, and this is a major shift we are seeing away from a ‘cables and wiring’ environment towards a more virtual one,” he says.

IT vs Broadcast Experience

The industry has had a long-standing debate regarding the relative advantages of training IT engineers in broadcast skills versus training broadcast engineers in IT skills, highlighting different perspectives on how each group can contribute to the evolving broadcasting landscape.

Broadcast engineers’ deep domain knowledge gives them an advantage when learning to apply IT solutions within the context of broadcasting.

Ray doesn’t explicitly state a preference for training one group over the other. Instead, he highlights the importance of understanding the context within which broadcast technology operates, which might suggest an advantage in training those already familiar with the broadcasting environment. He implies that the knowledge and experience broadcast engineers possess can be leveraged effectively if they are also trained in new IT skills. “An individual with a clear understanding of how and where their work sits within the broadcast chain is likely to perform better,” he says. “Knowing not only what they do but why they are doing it is important.”

Damon Neale

Damon Neale, Mediate Solutions

Neale provides a more direct comparison between the advantages of training IT versus broadcast engineers. He recognises the unique strengths each group brings to the table and discusses the challenges and benefits associated with cross-training each type. “I don’t think either is ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ than the other,” he says. “Both bring important skill sets which are highly relevant and useful.”

He further elaborates on specific advantages, noting that IT engineers are generally more comfortable in a virtual or cloud-based environment, which is increasingly relevant in modern broadcasting. They might adapt more quickly to the technical aspects of cloud computing and IT infrastructure involved in broadcasting. However, Neale observes that broadcast engineers already understand the unique requirements and challenges of the broadcasting world, including content creation, management, and distribution workflows. Their deep domain knowledge gives them an advantage when learning to apply IT solutions within the context of broadcasting.

Security all-round

The integration of IT into broadcasting brings forth challenges related to security that are new to the broadcasting industry. Neale expresses concern that even as the industry rushes to adopt these advanced technologies, there is insufficient knowledge about securing them, which could lead to vulnerabilities and risks.

“There is still plenty of misunderstanding about cloud usage,” says Neale highlighting a significant gap in the industry regarding security, especially as technologies evolve and become more complex. “It’s everyone’s responsibility in the organisation,” he says. “You could have the best IT security and then someone who’s not in the IT team clicks on a file in an email and gets the whole network hacked.”

In his view, there is an urgent need for comprehensive security training that addresses not only technical aspects but also practical implications, such as compliance with data protection laws like GDPR. He believes that enhancing security training is critical to prepare broadcast engineers to handle the complexities of modern broadcasting environments securely and effectively

Continuous Learning and Reskilling

Both Ray and Neale recognise the critical role of reskilling in the broadcasting industry as it transitions to more IT-oriented technologies. Ray focuses more on the continuous need for foundational and advanced training to keep pace with industry changes, while Neale emphasises the urgency of addressing significant knowledge gaps. Both are in agreement that the broadcasting landscape is rapidly evolving, and ongoing professional development and reskilling are essential to maintain industry standards and leverage new technological opportunities. Their perspectives underscore the importance of an adaptable and continually learning workforce capable of navigating the complexities of modern broadcasting.

Ray comments on the persistent demand for deeper IP knowledge: “I am surprised at how popular our IP courses are - it doesn’t feel like a particularly new thing, yet there is obviously an ongoing need to develop greater understanding there,” he says.

Similarly, Neale emphasises the continuous need for skill development in areas like cloud computing and AI, highlighting the dynamic nature of technology and the necessity for the workforce to keep pace: “As technology evolves, so too must our skills. Continuous learning is not just beneficial; it’s necessary for survival in this rapidly changing environment,” he says. “We need training that goes beyond theoretical knowledge to hands-on, practical applications of cloud technology in real broadcasting environments.”

Looking Forward: Training and Development Strategies

To effectively address the challenges outlined by Ray and Neale, the industry needs to adopt a multi-faceted approach to training and development, which includes:

1. Hybrid Training Programmes: Courses that provide a thorough understanding of both traditional broadcast technology and modern IT practices, tailored to the diverse backgrounds of industry entrants.

2. Security and Compliance Education: Training on the legal implications of technology usage within broadcasting to ensure engineers can navigate the complexities of compliance and security.

3. Enhanced Collaboration: Focusing on improving the communication skills of engineers to enable better collaboration between IT and broadcast departments.

4. Community and Industry Partnerships: Engaging with broader community and industry partners to keep training programs aligned with actual industry needs.

As the broadcast industry continues its transition towards cloud-based technologies, it becomes clear that there is a pressing demand for programmes to train a new breed of engineers proficient in both traditional broadcasting and modern IT. These programmes are crucial not only for equipping today’s engineers with necessary skills but also for paving the way for the next generation of broadcast professionals. By embracing a holistic approach to training, the industry can navigate this transition effectively, ensuring a future where broadcast technology and cloud computing merge to create more dynamic, efficient, and innovative media production landscapes.

Although no provider currently offers comprehensive training courses for the use of cloud technologies in the broadcast sphere, there are a number of related offerings from a variety of companies. By using a combination of the courses available, engineers can create a bespoke approach to continuous professional development in the area.