Posted on September 7, 2022 in ATSC News
Erik Langner is CEO of Information Equity Initiative (IEI). He says his involvement in ATSC springs from his 19 years working in public broadcasting, and his deep care about the industry, the stations, and the profound impact that broadcasters can have on their local communities.
“What drove me to this industry, as opposed to other types of public service, is the scalability of impact that becomes possible with broadcast: with compelling content, a station establishes a direct connection to their community to open minds and to open hearts,” Langner says.
“Several years ago, as ATSC 3.0 began to emerge, the focus in the industry was within engineering circles. My colleagues and I at Public Media Company quickly recognized that this broadcast standard represented a significant step change for enhancing a station’s ability to engage with audiences and to develop new business models of service. For several years, I have now been focused on how to apply this technology to new and scalable models for public service.”
Langner says as a new ATSC member, IEI looks forward to engaging with groups focused on international expansion of the ATSC 3.0 standard, and the public service opportunities that emerge through non-real time (NRT, aka “datacasting”) services.
“Information Equity Initiative is an international nonprofit organization that believes that all individuals deserve to have equitable access to learning resources, regardless of geography or income. To deliver on our mission, Information Equity partners with broadcasters, government agencies, philanthropy, and content producers to deliver curated educational content to homes and facilities that lack access to broadband. Datacasting over the broadcast spectrum is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do this. As an organization, we are rapidly growing to bridge the information gap in the U.S. and across the developing world – K-12, early childhood education, workforce training for those experiencing incarceration, public health, emergency alerting, and access to local news. In the process, we are empowering broadcasters to become more consequential to their communities by delivering new, direct services to those that need it the most. With each conversation I have – whether a warden of a youth incarceration facility, a public health official, my recent meetings with education officials in Jamaica, or a teacher in a rural school district – each appreciate how datacasting can help solve a profound problem in an efficient and practical way.”
Now that the standard has been completed, Langner says as stewards of nearly ubiquitous spectrum, we – as an industry – have a profound opportunity to rethink how we leverage ATSC 3.0 to build local business and service models.
“IEI is the only nonprofit organization focused on how to harness the power of datacasting to fundamentally enhance the lives of individuals within a community. A core strength of broadcasters (vs. global technology and media companies) is that we are fundamentally local in nature. It is exhilarating to consider IEI’s role in this ecosystem: we are radically decentralizing the concept of curation by shifting content decisions to the hyper-local level: putting a second-grade teacher in control of a million watts of power to meet the needs of their most marginalized students. Re-imagining the utility and value of the broadcast spectrum in such a way will have far-reaching implications that improve the lives of individuals across the United States and abroad.”
Langner says ATSC 3.0 has a vital impact on the broadcast industry.
“I have always believed that Content is King, but that Distribution is King Kong. With ATSC 3.0, this remains true. For ATSC 3.0 to be successful, it is critical that broadcasters re-imagine interactive content – especially local news – to better engage and serve their audiences. And with more compelling content and data distribution capacity, broadcasters have an ability to leverage ATSC 3.0’s enhanced over-the-air reception to directly connect with their audiences and to bypass the gate keepers. Radio has always controlled both content and distribution. Originally, broadcast TV did as well, but now is the moment for the digital terrestrial television industry to lean back into this unique opportunity to maximize the value of both.”
Langner says the ability to reach communities is among the most impressive features of ATSC 3.0
“As an organization, IEI is interoperable in 82% of the world’s countries, all of which have adopted a digital television standard. Because IEI is primarily focused on the delivery of asynchronous public service content to those who lack access to broadband, we are highly supportive of ATSC 3.0 due to its enhanced reception in the home. And with the potential of Single Frequency Networks within the ATSC 3.0 standard, there is a cost-effective way to reach communities that would otherwise go unserved.”
Langner got hooked on broadcasting at a young age. He was a DJ and the General Manager of his high school radio station and was an intern (late evening shift) at KYYS 102.1 FM in Kansas City. He earned degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and thought his broadcast days were over. He went on to work at the United Nations in Geneva and spent several years as a corporate attorney at large law firms in San Francisco and New York. But then his chance emerged when Susan Harmon (public radio trailblazer) and Marc Hand (CEO of Public Media Venture Group) invited him to join a small, nonprofit investment bank called Public Radio Capital (now called Public Media Company – PMC). During his fifteen years with that organization, Langner had the opportunity to work with the CEOs and boards of dozens of public broadcasters to structure hundreds of millions of dollars of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships aimed at strengthening their financial and public service capacity. While at PMC, Langner also had the privilege to work with the country’s leading public radio music stations to establish VuHaus, which remains the only public media music network in the country. Most recently, Langner co-founded the Information Equity Initiative (IEI) along with the public broadcasters in Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg, PA, and South Carolina. Langner says he is still patiently waiting for his chance to get back on the air!
Langner met his wife in New York. After graduating from Juilliard, she had an incredible dance career with contemporary and modern companies based in New York and Europe. She now teaches ballet and runs a nonprofit that provides dance education to underserved students in schools across Denver.
“Our twelve-year-old daughter has also gravitated to the arts, focusing on ballet and musical theater. We live in Colorado and love heading up to the mountains to cross-country ski, hike and visit the hot springs around the state. And we are all obsessed with our sixteen-month-old dog, Remi!”
Posted in ATSC News
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The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards and recommended practices for digital terrestrial broadcasting. ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC also develops digital terrestrial broadcasting implementation strategies and supports educational activities on ATSC standards.