Michigan station receives first public TV ATSC 3.0 license

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The FCC has granted the first noncommercial ATSC 3.0 license to WKAR in East Lansing, Mich.

WKAR, licensed to Michigan State University, will begin experimental broadcasting in September using the new internet-based broadcast protocol known as Next Generation TV. The license is valid for six months.

The station will also create a NextGen Media Innovation Lab, a research facility within WKAR and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. The lab’s work, a partnership with the Public Media Venture Group, “will have an emphasis on outcomes related to education and public media content,” according to MSU.

The lab will explore opportunities to use ATSC 3.0 in early-childhood education, telehealth, distance education, connected and autonomous vehicles, agriculture, emergency response and sharing local information. WKAR will share its findings with other public TV stations.

“We intend to focus on ATSC 3.0 applications that are central to the core values of noncommercial television licensees — education and the betterment of our communities,” said WKAR GM Susi Elkins.

America’s Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler praised Elkins for her leadership. Elkins has managed WKAR since March 2017.

Elkins has emerged “in a very short time as one of the most forward-looking and innovative leaders in public television,” Butler said. “Securing this Special Temporary Authority from the FCC to test various potential applications of the new ATSC 3 broadcast standard is only the latest example of that leadership.”

Butler added the lab at WKAR “will be an important testbed” for all public television stations.

“It’s a wide open field,” said Marc Hand, CEO of Public Media Co. “Deploying our partner WKAR as a test site for Next Gen TV is just one demonstration of how Public Media Co. and the Public Media Venture Group intend to move aggressively to leverage Next Gen TV to the benefit of communities across the U.S.”

WKAR’s experimental ATSC 3.0 station will broadcast on a digital frequency covering some 40 miles. Devices capable of receiving ATSC 3.0 signals aren’t yet widely available to consumers.

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