General Conference Broadcasts Not Exactly 'Live,' Thanks to High Tech
You may notice this most if you have an older television airing LDS General Conference in a separate room from your newer TV ...
There's a noticeable delay of a few seconds in the newer TVs, vs. the older ones.
Conference listeners to radio will find and even greater delay -- 8 seconds or more.
And, Internet watchers of conference may actually be watching up to a three-minute delay of conference.
What is truly live these days?
The live or real-time broadcasts of LDS general conference aren't truly live or real-time. The only place to experience the conference literally as it happens is inside the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
That's because the quirks of broadcasting and the Internet create noticeable delays, ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes.
That might seem odd, in this age of high-tech gadgets and available media, when many expect speed-of-light delivery.
However, tune both a radio and a TV at your house to conference and you will have different delays.
In fact, if you have a radio on in one room and a TV on in another nearby room, the disparity in the timing of the broadcasts will be distracting, as TV and radio broadcasts are some six seconds apart.
In the 21st century, so-called "live" TV and radio broadcasts are actually slower than ever.
The delays in modern broadcasting have nothing to do with creating some time to censor objectionable content from a live event at the last second.
"The short answer is digital broadcasting," said John Dehnel, chief engineer for Deseret Media Company Radio, which includes KSL-AM/FM, KSFI, KRSP and the BYU Radio Network. "It takes some time to encode the audio to digital."
Basically, that means the fastest broadcast these days is high-definition television, with only two seconds of delay from the source.
High-definition radio has about an eight-second delay.
"The longer delay for radio is in part a deliberate attempt to make HD robust in a mobile environment so that the audio can be buffered in the receiver and not drop out if there is a momentary loss of signal," Dehnel said. "In analog, it might fade or get static, but in digital it's either perfect or it does not work at all."
If you don't think HD radio's delay is long enough, there's a huge delay for the streaming signal over the Internet for general conference — 2½ to three minutes of lapse.
"There is approximately a three-minute delay between the television broadcast and the Internet streaming versions of general conference," said Cody Craynor, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "The delay is due to file conversion necessary to stream conference proceedings over the Internet."
So, it all boils down to a slower but clearer signal in the 21st century.
It turns out even the Nauvoo Bell ring on KSL Radio isn't live anymore, because of that technical delay in the HD signal.
"In order to make sure it rings exactly at the top-of-the-hour second, we now play a recording of the bell controlled by a GPS clock instead of putting the live line from Temple Square on the air as we used to," Dehnel said.
(-Adapted from a Deseret News article by Lynn Arave, on Oct. 1, 2010.)