NewsNet ‘Netcast’ serves worldwide audience

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BYU NewsNet online played a small part in this weekend?s historic General Conference by broadcasting audio of the proceedings live over the Internet, said Scott Johnson, one of NewsNet?s editorial directors.

?I?m very pleased with the response we?ve received. It?s very humbling to hear from people around the world who are so grateful to be able to listen to conference for the first time as it happened,? he said.

NewsNet offered live audio of the conference in eight foreign languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Samoan, German, Mandarin, Cantonese, French, and Japanese. NewsNet also offered links to the KSL site which netcast in English.

Because NewsNet doesn?t ask people to log in at the

site, Johnson said it is impossible to know exactly how many people accessed it. But he guessed that traffic was three to four times what it usually is.

?To me, the number of people (who listened) isn?t important,? Johnson said. ?What is important is that we were able to play a small role in making this happen. It doesn?t really matter if two people tuned in or 200,000,? he said.

This is the second General Conference that NewsNet has ?netcast.?

Last spring some students came to Johnson with the idea of netcasting conference in various foreign languages. He told them it was a great idea, and asked them to talk with LDS Church-owned Bonneville Communications.

Johnson admits he was a little pessimistic as to whether they would be able to do it.

?To do something like this at a corporation would be impossible because of the greed and jealousy involved,? he said. ?But here, it?s like the dominoes just fell into place. Everyone has worked together to make this happen.?

The process of netcasting conference is a complicated one that begins at Temple Square. Volunteers come to the tabernacle to translate the talks into 35 different languages.

?So you can imagine the number of people involved to coordinate and execute such a huge project,? Johnson said.

As the talks are translated, Bonneville Communications makes them available live via satellite to different parts of the world where they can be picked up by stake centers or even by radio.

?That?s a lot of people involved, and the two conferences we?ve been a part of, I haven?t seen a single problem,? Johnson said. ?Their?s is the hard part — What we do is easy.?

BYU Media Services downloads these transmissions in as many languages as they have the bandwidth for, which is currently eight.

NewsNet then sets their computers to tune into the channels.

Johnson said NewsNet has permission to netcast in all 35 available languages, but they don?t yet have the technological capability or financial resources.

Media Services is expected to expand its bandwidth in the future to accommodate Cougar Cable, and this will allow for more languages to be netcast in the future.

Johnson said this netcast was so successful largely because of the support of others. BYU administration has allocated resources to NewsNet along with the money from an anonymous doner that allowed them to purchase another server.

Johnson also said Progressive Networks, a non-LDS affiliated company and the makers of Real Audio and Real Video, also donated thousands of dollars of hardware and software to make this year’s netcast possible.

?They?re just doing it because they are excited about what we are doing technologically,? he said.

Comments about this year’s netcast have come in from practically every continent showing gratitude for the chance to listen to conference live in their native languages.

?It’s great to be able to hear conference live, here in American Samoa, we sometimes have to wait for months before our local tv station gets video tapes and then they will only broadcast one or two sessions,? said Carl W. Filiaga of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Johnson says the general authorities of the church deserve much of the credit for the success of the netcast.

?That the brethren have agreed to let us experiment with this new technology tells me that it is an inspired work and fulfillment of scripture,? Johnson said.

?To know all that?s involved and let a handful of college students take this on leaves me no room for doubt that it is an inspired work that will go forward.?

Mark Stringham, NewsNet online editor, is one of several students who has spent most of his weekend working to get the conference out to others. In fact, he has watched all but the priesthood session of conference from the NewsNet newsroom. But he said that when you look at it as a service, time has no bearing.

?Not only are we providing a service,? he said, ?but it?s a sacred service. We?re allowing people to hear conference in their native tongues and we?re using the technology that the Lord has given us to do it.?

Complete conference coverage and comments from cyberspace can be read at NewsNet and http://newsnet.byu.edu/noframes/guestbook/.

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