MSUToday
Published: Sept. 25, 2019

WKAR opens NextGen Media Innovation Lab

Contact(s): Melissa Priebe Communication Arts and Sciences office: 517-353-0706 priebeme@msu.edu, Kristen Parker University Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709 klparker@msu.edu

WKAR Public Media, Michigan State University and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences opened the NextGen Media Innovation Lab on Sept. 19. The new lab will explore applications of the newest television broadcasting standard, ATSC 3.0 technology, or NextGen TV.

“This innovative space serves as a collaborative hub where students, faculty and researchers will explore the future of television and other applications afforded by the emerging ATSC 3.0 digital standard,” said Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting and general manager of WKAR Public Media. “We’ve reached several significant milestones since receiving our experimental license last year and are excited to reach this goal of launching the NextGen Media Innovation Lab.”

During the opening ceremony, MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr., M.D., stood with Lonna Thompson, Prabu David, Fred Engel and Elkins to cut the ribbon for the lab. The event was preceded by demonstrations on NextGen TV and emerging technology and was followed by a tour of Spartan Mobility Village.

“WKAR has a long history of innovation in programming,” Stanley said. “This NextGen Media Innovation Lab is a true 21st century manifestation of the land grant tradition at MSU, building innovation and community research into an educational program.”

In 2018, WKAR was the first public broadcasting station in the U.S. to be granted an experimental license by the FCC to broadcast in ATSC 3.0 technology, or NextGen TV. To develop the new technology, the NextGen Media Innovation Lab was constructed inside WKAR studios, located at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. 

“WKAR is doing amazing things here, through MSU,” said Thompson, executive vice president, chief operating officer and general counsel at American Public Television Stations. “WKAR became the model for the rest of our stations across the country.” 

Combining the capabilities of broadcast technology and high-speed internet, NextGen TV offers broadcasters a way to distribute highly customized, accessible and interactive content over the airwaves. The technology allows audiovisual broadcasts to be customized by geographic location and displayed with multiple screens, providing television, mobile applications and targeted messaging to customers simultaneously on one device.

“The new standard integrates broadcast with broadband, and features heightened mobility and a more efficient use of the broadcast spectrum,” Elkins said. “These attributes allow numerous opportunities for multidisciplinary research on customization and interactivity.”

With the help of researchers and developers, NextGen TV holds the potential to deliver innovations in a wide range of services, including education, automotive technology, advanced emergency alert systems, telemedicine and marketing, to name a few. 

Because data can be delivered alongside traditional television content via a free, over-the-air broadcast signal, the technology can also reach underserved populations and people who live in rural areas. The Trifecta Initiative, a health research collaboration between the colleges of Engineering, Nursin, and Communication Arts and Sciences, held a challenge in the spring to collect innovative ideas to leverage the capabilities of ATSC 3.0.  

Now, the NextGen Media Innovation Lab is open for collaboration, research and development. Faculty, staff, students and partners will be further exploring ideas for innovationand creating some of the first applications for NextGen TV.   

“This is truly impressive technology,” said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “What I am most excited about is the technology offers numerous opportunities to serve our land grant mission, but also the mission of public television, which is to provide access to those that don’t have it.”

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