Posted on March 17, 2022 in ATSC News
John Lawson, Executive Director, Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) Alliance, and President, Convergence Services, Inc., first got involved with ATSC when he was the CEO of America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) in the aughts. By showcasing the capabilities of digital television, Lawson helped secure federal funding for the analog to digital conversion of public television and closed a massive deal for the carriage of digital multicast channels on cable.
Lawson says it was an early form of advanced alerting that eventually led to his involvement with ATSC 3.0.
“After 9/11, APTS led datacasting tests that helped convince President Bush to create IPAWS – the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.” he recalls. “Years later, when ATSC 3.0 came on the horizon, it became clear that ‘the technology had [finally] caught up with the mission.’”
Later, Lawson started his own consulting firm and, in 2016, he helped found the AWARN Alliance, with the specific mission to utilize the powerful capabilities of ATSC 3.0 to improve emergency messaging.
Lawson says AWARN has done a lot to coalesce some, but certainly not all, of the broadcasting and CE industries around using the life-saving features built into ATSC 3.0.
When the FCC approved voluntary NextGen transmission in 2017, all five commissioners – even the two who voted against it – cited advanced alerting as the most important consumer benefit of 3.0,” Lawson says. “Chairman Pai even thanked me personally for giving him the ‘ammo’ to get it through.”
Lawson says the impact ATSC 3.0 will have on the broadcast industry will be profound.
“The potential we’ve been talking about for years is there. But the world is not waiting on the broadcast industry to make it happen,” he adds.
“It’s pretty impressive to have all those NEXTGEN TV stations lighting up. At the same time, the federal government is providing massive outlays for broadband, as is the private sector. And the wireless industry is spending huge sums – and using former TV spectrum – to try to match its colossal hype about 5G. So, the relative advantages of multiple one-to-many PLP’s from tall towers and SFN’s may fade if we don’t start rolling out appealing new services to consumers.”
Lawson was born and raised in South Carolina, and earned BA and MA degrees in International Studies from the University of South Carolina. Despite passing the Foreign Service and CIA written test batteries, he somehow instead got involved in domestic politics and worked in political and environmental campaigns.
He broke into broadcasting at the SC ETV Network of 11 public TV and eight radio stations. In 1990, he was recruited to Washington, D.C. to run national affairs for APTS, where they turned around funding and got the Public Broadcasting Act reauthorized – the last time that was done.
Lawson left APTS in 1993 and started his own consulting/lobbying firm, Convergence Services, Inc. Clients included PBS, Dr. Bob Ballard, who found the RMS Titanic, and Fred Rogers – yes, “Mister Rogers.” For PBS, Lawson learned about the technology, especially this new thing called digital television. He worked closely with the late, great Howard Miller, PBS CTO, and his PBS successor, Mark Richer (who of course would later go on to lead ATSC).
In 2001, Lawson went back to APTS, this time as CEO. Leveraging the new tech of DTV combined with his knowledge of grassroots lobbying, they secured both funding and multicast carriage. Lawson also helped beat back attempts to undermine the editorial independence of PBS and NPR.
After seven years at APTS, Lawson became an Executive VP for Brandon Burgess at ION, who was beginning his impressive rebuilding of that network. Later, he restarted his consulting firm and LG Electronics/Zenith became a long-term client. Lawson resumed his work on advanced alerting and in, 2016, several great companies came together to form the AWARN Alliance.
John is married to Nanette, and they are blessed with identical twin boys, Jackson and Thaddeus, both recent college graduates. Nan is the COO at the organization that regulates the $4 trillion municipal bond industry.
Lawson and family get outdoors a lot with their cabin in the Shenandoah Mountains of West Virginia. An “indoor” hobby is watch collecting. Lawson says, “Mechanical watches are refreshingly analog. They’re not ‘connected’ to any network, they don’t monitor my movements or store any data. They just tell time – accurately and beautifully.”
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.