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IRT to Close by End of 2020

Closing a prestigious research institute is not in line with government’s policy to encourage innovation

The author is co-founder of Ferncast and Binaurics Audio as well as founder of Mayah Communications.

MUNICH — Shareholders of Munich-based Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH recently announced they would stop supporting the research facility.

Detlef Wiese

Between 1987 and 1992 I was lucky enough to be part of the IRT, developing and exploring audio coding. At the time IRT was already recognized as a prestigious R&D organization. Wherever I presented a paper, being associated with the IRT had great value.

My time as a scientist there was a highlight of my career. The knowledge I gathered in so many fields of broadcasting was overwhelming. Those five years were great! The IRT focuses on the three business fields: AV and production systems, media services and platforms, and network technologies.

It was already very sad to discover the termination of regional public television broadcaster ZDF in 2019. And now with IRT backers (German public broadcasting organization ARD, Austrian ORF and Swiss SRG), deciding to withdraw as shareholders in the organization, the research center will be forced to close by the end of the year.

It’s about the fate of all the 100 employees who do not know about their future. It’s also about the culmination of a prominent, almost 75-year-old research institution. Today Europe needs to encourage innovation in so many fields to stay on track with global developments and remain competitive.

IRT’s areas of research

Therefore, I find it incomprehensible and unjustifiable that Germany is giving up another research platform. Freedom of expression in the broadcasting sector and the corresponding technology that derives from it has a huge value and is certainly worth keeping. In addition, when comparing the overall budget of public broadcasters ARD, ZDF, ORF and SRG, one sees that the amount dedicated to the IRT makes up less than 0.5% of that budget.

What’s even more perplexing is that in October, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder announced that the government would invest €2 billion in a research and innovation program for that region.

It’s important to emphasize that in Europe there is a strong political push to increase research in the short- and medium-term. Closing a important research institute that has been operating since 1956 is clearly not in line with this policy.

Detlef Wiese is one of the original inventors of MPEG Layer II and is CEO of Ferncast. He is also musician, entrepreneur and local politician. Contact him via email at [email protected].