Live IP technologies revolutionise the way news is gathered and consumed in Africa

Videstream talks to Salim Amin, the chairman of Camerapix in Nairobi – a company set up in 1963 by his father, the legendary Mohamed ‘Mo’ Amin whose footage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine led to the Live Aid concerts.

Since then, Camerapix teams have filmed throughout the continent; the company’s archive now houses the largest visual resource of its kind in Africa with more than 8,000 hours of unique and historic video footage.

Salim is also chairman of The Mohamed Amin Foundation which was launched to equip budding African journalists with the tools and knowledge to tell local stories to an international audience.

Salim Amin

Since your early days at Camerapix, how has technology changed for those in the field wishing to transmit video back to their home broadcaster?

When I started at Camerapix almost 30 years ago, the only ways we could get video back to Visnews in London was to take our tapes to the local state broadcaster, book satellite time at an exorbitant rate, also carry our own playout machine, and hope the satellite was up at the allocated time and the transmission went through! We also always made a mad dash to the airport and put a back-up tape on a flight to London, either with a courier company or with a passenger.

We evolved a little by having our own satellite uplink in our office to transmit our stories, and took to setting up live links in frontlines around East Africa which included hauling around a couple of tons of equipment and charter planes just for the gear.

Now we can set up an FTP link and send high-res content from the comfort of home and a bare minimum of cost!

Salim Amin’s father pictured in front of a large sat-dish

Does the IP technology require operators to be much more multi-skilled than they used to be?

I think news gathering in general now requires operators to be much more multi-skilled. Often it is the correspondent filming their own package, editing, writing copy and then uploading this to their newsrooms. Then they do a piece for the website, maybe post on social media, also send a few stills, sometimes do a piece for radio and post a blog! The technology has made doing this a lot easier but it is still a lot of work for one person!

Salim Amin conducting an interview

What live IP transmission kit is now mainly used by operators throughout Africa?

Around the Continent there are LiveU kits being used; there is streaming being done over FTP links and some are also using social media to stream live, like Facebook Live, Instagram etc.

The IP technology has definitely changed the ways things used to be done. For starters, as I mentioned above, the days of big news teams have gone and now there are one or two-person crews operating on assignments. The technology has allowed streaming from very remote areas so that has also changed the time frame from when the event happens to when the images are shown. I also believe it has put a lot of additional pressure on reporters to get their stories out, leading to much more dangerous situations.

IP transmission packs, from companies such as LiveU, have opened up a world of possibilities in African newsgathering

Many African countries used to rely on news from just the state broadcaster. How has that changed?

Every African country now has multiple TV and Radio stations, most are NOT state controlled, and there is far more access to social media platforms which is where the majority of young Africans (and that makes up around 75% of the Continent) get their news from.

Many young Africans now get their news from social media

How can you see developments taking place in the next few years with regards to the roll out of faster cellular networks and even better opportunities for gathering live news?

I think the more people have access to faster and cheaper internet and data bundles, the more they will abandon the traditional platforms to get their news … TV, radio and newspapers will have to move online to try and keep their audiences, but the big social media platforms will still be the primary source of news and information, fake or not.

The chances of professional journalists being at the scene of a breaking news event in the years to come will be the same as winning the lottery! Breaking news will be captured by citizens on their mobile devices and news organisations will use this content and have to build on telling the background stories and putting the events into context.

Salim Amin’s father pictured in front of a burning tank, in the days before citizen journalism
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