The Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, and 1967?

How about The Institution of Electrical Engineers, and 1968?

Does it help if I mention the beach at Brighton? A pavilion, or a caravan?

A name, perhaps? John Wilson?

History is a cruel medium. Not only are we condemned to repeat it, but we also forget its lessons. We are consistently poor at recording it with fidelity, and especially without bias.

A cynic might echo the same sentiments about broadcasting. Maybe, back in the 1960s, when colour television was new, when channels were few, when adverts were a novel innovation, then the idea of having an International Broadcasting Convention that would still be running more than 40 years later, would fit the global mood of change, of hope, of peace, of love. The passing of those intervening years contains lots of change and hope, but…

Technological advances are often curious and convoluted, changes of name can be more so. That global television convention from the 60s has become just three letters: IBC. Casting off the original meaning is something akin to Newspeak, from George Orwell’s ‘1984’. Broadcasting has widened, to media, to networks, to streaming, to software, to protocols, to object-based-everything, to The Cloud and IP. Most of these words would mean very little to a person in 1967 – context is important... but jargon is also fleeting. So, IBC means…IBC, although ‘Media’ might be a synonym for many people!

Actually, IBC means a lot more than just a convention, an exhibition, a show, a conference... Anything that takes over the whole 112,000 square metres of Amsterdam’s huge RAI Convention Centre is automatically a major event, and with a record attendance of 55,000 in a pre-pandemic 2017, that’s a lot of people. The first IBC was held in a hotel in London, but had outgrown that for the second year, which is also when what is now known as the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) started to manage it. From then, it gradually filled Brighton’s available hotel and conference space (plus the beach), and in 1990, John Wilson started turning IBC into an independent organisation, looking for a new home, culminating in the first RAI IBC in 1992. Nowadays, six organisations own the IBC: IABM, IEEE, IET, RTS, SCTE and SMPTE, and it is indeed an international event on the grand scale.

Ultimately, IBC is ‘an institution’. Not just of engineering and technology, but of creativity, innovation, and networking – in every sense. After the shock of a locked-down world for several years, the shock of discovering that videoconferencing was actually usable by just about anyone, and the shock of people editing, producing and working from home, then it probably is a big shock to you that you are now much more informed about the history of IBC!

Do you have any stories to tell or memories of IBCs past? Share them in the comments below! 

  • I used to be the Community Manager for the IET Media Network (or the IET Multimedia and Communications Network as it was called back then) and went to IBC as part of that role. Probably the best and most fun conference/exhibition I've ever been to and definitely the largest to date! Loved running around the exhibition halls with a camera crew and filming interviews with the various companies that were there. It was great to learn about the upcoming technology they were working on and it taught me to keep that camera rolling after the official interview portion had wrapped. Missed so many great gems in the candid conversations once the interviewee had relaxed a bit! Blush

  • Hi  I remember going about 2011 when I was working for the Harris Dublin office. A few of us went over to Amsterdam for the show. Somehow we got landed with bringing over a multi-viewer with a last minute proto board installed.........as cargo luggage. Thankfully it was a short train ride from Schiphol to the IBC. ;-)

    Show was fascinating. Well worth the trip for someone in the broadcast Industry. 

  • Thanks Martin. Fascinating history of IBC! My first memory is from the late 1980, when the show was still in Brighton and fitted into one hall. The exciting new technologies (at least, the ones that have stuck in my mind) were RDS (Radio Data System to help FM car radios tune and automatically switching to traffic news) and a sub-Nyquist sampling method to compress HD video to 1GHz (I think it was still analogue!)