In this FEED Round Table, newsrooms and tech companies discuss the rollercoaster of 2020, what they learnt and how this year changed news.


FEED: You get to hear about these challenges from the other side, and from multiple broadcasters. What were some of the major themes you heard from your customers in 2020?

Tom Dickinson: TSL has two main markets, the production side of the business, serving mobile trucks and live events, which went to almost zero in a matter of weeks. The pieces that kept going were where there was a major integration project still going on. At the beginning of the year, before I joined TSL, I was in the rental business and all the business for trucks and sporting events just stopped, literally in a day.

DNF Controls, the company that TSL bought last year, focuses on the manual overrides for news and the ability to do ad insertion. Usually those are button panels; you hit a button to stop the automation system and go to ‘live breaking news’ for example. But that’s in a physical building with someone hitting that button. So the first call we got was a request for a web app and web keys so our customers could do that remotely without anyone in the building. We quickly put in web keys so you can do manual breaks, commercial insertion and stop the automation remotely from a different location.

With most of our news networks distributed, we can have any station override and control anybody else’s stations playout. So that business has continued well, because we quickly had to write code to do web keys and code to do more virtualisation of our equipment. Going forward, everything we’re developing involves virtualisation and being cloud-based. We can’t assume you have a person in a room hitting a button all the time.