The recipient of the IBC2021 International Honour for Excellence is Barbara Slater, BBC director of sport. As the fi rst woman to hold the post, she has been a pioneer for women’s sport, as well as driving forward innovations in coverage and reach. Slater was born into a sporting family – her father won

the FA Cup with Wolverhampton Wanderers – and she showed early promise as a diver. She moved from there to gymnastics, representing Great Britain at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal at the age of 19. On retiring from competitive sport she found herself in the world of television, providing specialist knowledge behind the scenes as well as commentating on gymnastics competitions. She won a place as a trainee producer at BBC, and on one placement she found herself sitting behind the director at a sporting event.

“I thought that this was the best job in the world,” she said. “He sat in the chair, he had all of the cameras in front of him, and he told the story.” She became a director, covering events like the Open Golf and Wimbledon, including a memorable Pete Sampras fi nal.

Slater was appointed to the top job at BBC Sport in 2009, and immediately faced the challenge of creating

a memorable and engaging experience at the London Olympics in 2012. “What I remember was the feeling of responsibility. This was such an amazing opportunity for the sports broadcasting industry, and I had this awareness that, goodness, we had to get it right,” she recalled. Today she is rightly regarded as a driving force in sports

broadcasting for all. As well as collaborating with other broadcasters and sports bodies she is a special advisor to the International Olympic Committee. In 2014 she was made an OBE for her services to sports broadcasting. For a long career in sports broadcasting, Barbara Slater has been awarded the IBC2021 International Honour for Excellence, only the second woman to do so in its 37-year history. Receiving the award, she said: “I want to comment on the momentum that we now see behind women’s sport, with the achievements of female athletes being recognised in the way they hadn’t before.” “In my years at BBC Sport I’ve seen an industry transformed,” she said. “Technology has paved the way to an entirely new level of quality of coverage, choice and range. “I am extremely honoured to receive this prestigious award – I am really proud to do so. Thank you to all at IBC.”

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IBC International Honour for Excellence recipient Barbara Slater


Technical papers, representing the latest in research, have always been a cornerstone of the IBC Conference and this year is no exception. Each year, the very best of the papers, in terms of both innovative research and clarity of presentation, is rewarded in the IBC Awards Programme. This year, the award for Best Technical Paper goes to a remarkable team effort from BBC Research & Development. The aim of the paper is to make content discovery a more seamless experience for the consumer. To illustrate this, the team developed a portal which allowed a single app to access content on Netfl ix, Spotify and BBC Sounds.

The portal encouraged content discovery through curated suggestions. If a user regularly requested tracks from a particular artist on Spotify, then the app would suggest the next time that artist is featured on BBC Radio or BBC Sounds, for example. While this is clearly a valuable concept, there are two signifi cant challenges. The fi rst is that each content provider closely guards its user data, which is a valuable part of its business assets. The second, of course, is

Ricklefs: “We need to fi nd ways to bring our public service broadcasting onto digital services”

the need to protect the personal data of the user from unwanted exploitation, and to visibly demonstrate that it is safe when using the app.

That is why BBC R&D compiled a team which included not only technologists but also experts on

the legal and ethical questions involved. The result is an IBC paper called Stronger Together: Cross-service media recommendations. Hannes Ricklefs of BBC Research & Development, one of the authors of the paper, said: “We see the broadcast industry moving into the online space, going beyond TV and radio. We need to fi nd ways to bring our public service broadcasting onto digital services. Within that, we believe that handling of personal data in a privacy-preserving way, with ethical controls, is a very important topic. “We’re grateful for this award because we hope that the blueprint we have described in the paper will be a catalyst for more innovation and development in this space.”

Paul Entwistle, chair of the peer-review panel for

IBC’s technical papers, which is also responsible for selecting the winner, said: “Privacy of personal data is an important and under-debated topic. This paper demonstrates alternatives to the norm, putting control back with the individual, and potentially increasing value to the industry through co-operative sharing.”


IBC2021 chose to present a special award to NBCUniversal for its technical work around bringing the Tokyo Olympic Games to its audience and offering them the chance to enjoy live action in Ultra HD: 4K resolution, high dynamic range colour and Dolby Atmos sound. While production processes for recorded, scripted content in Ultra HD are now well established, NBCUniversal has led the way in developing the necessary technology for single-stream production workfl ows in sport.

NBCUniversal covered the whole content pipeline, from acquisition and management of 4K content in the HLG colour space to a new version of its Skypath distribution system, that distributes to more than 200 local TV stations. Just in time for the Tokyo Games, this provided the means to send localised, full 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos Ultra HD to 70% of the US, without the need for expensive technology upgrades in each facility.

David Mazza, CTO of NBC Sports Group and Olympics,

and Clarence Hau, SVP of NBCUniversal Operations & Technology, said: “We are honoured to be recognised by IBC with this prestigious award. The Tokyo Games culminated years of live HDR and Atmos production and distribution development, leading to today’s refi ned techniques. “We are grateful to IBC for recognising this achievement by the technical teams across NBC Sports and Operations & Technology.”

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