In his opening keynote address to a packed house at the 2018 Public Media Summit, Pat Butler, President and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, painted a compelling picture of the “transformative opportunities” ahead for public media with Next Gen TV powered by ATSC 3.0.

By Patrick Butler

The future is here in the form of an amazing new broadcast standard: ATSC 3.0. With the help of some of the best in the business, and the leaders of the FCC who will supervise this dramatic transition, we will soon get our first glimpse of the future of broadcasting – and I promise you will like what you see.

In addition to the breathtaking advances in picture and sound quality that this IP-based Next Gen TV standard makes possible, there are remarkable advances in store for mobile service, interactivity, additional channel capacity, signal penetration, audience customization, constant technical innovation, and greatly enhanced spectrum efficiency – that all offer potentially transformative opportunities for your stations.

Managing this voluntary transition from the current ATSC 1.0 standard to ATSC 3.0 will require a special commitment of your time and talent for years to come. The transition will be market-by-market, unlike the transition from analog to digital a decade ago. The rewards of a successful passage to this new standard will be more than worth the effort.

Our public safety datacasting capability will be substantially upgraded by the mobile capabilities of ATSC 3 and by the new ability we’ll have to “wake up” cell phones and broadcast receivers to warn of imminent danger. 

By combining broadcast with broadband platforms, the new standard will enlarge our education mission by our new capacity to send huge files of content to students in their homes, including in the most remote areas of our country, where traditional broadband coverage may be many years away.

And because of the new standard’s greatly improved spectrum efficiency, your stations and our system stand to benefit significantly from the leasing of the spectrum capacity remaining after all your programming and public service commitments have been met.   

America’s Public Television Stations have been invited to join the spectrum consortium organized precisely for the purpose of aggregating and marketing this spectrum. We are actively exploring this opportunity, as well as others that will present themselves as the new standard permeates the market. 

This entrepreneurial approach to spectrum management, long encouraged by Congress and the FCC, is about to become very important in the new world of ATSC 3.0, and we will be ready for it.  

It may well presage new financial power for public media, helping us create new programming, provide new public services, modernize our technology and infrastructure, and stop living in chronic financial distress, as too many public media licensees have done for too long. 

Fortified by this progress and promise, we have it in our power to again makeover  the world of public media – to create a world in which our political fortunes are more secure, our public service missions more systemic, our potential for growth more expansive, and our connection to the American people even more profound than it is today.