A new experimental broadcast license for WKAR-TV opens the door for broadcast innovation and research at the MSU College of Communication Arts & Sciences. Michael O’Rielly, commissioner of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), recently visited Comm Arts and WKAR studios to show support for the deployment of ATSC 3.0 technology and announce the new license. The FCC issued license for WKAR studios allows for the creation of a Next Gen Media Innovation Lab.
As part of this announcement, Quello Center Director Bill Dutton highlighted some unique opportunities for research and innovation using ATSC 3.0. Dutton’s presentation followed an overview of the capabilities of ATSC 3.0 by WKAR’s Technical Services Manager Gary Blievernicht. See an overview here.
Some call it ATSC 3.0, Dutton calls it Next Generation Broadcasting. ATSC 3.0 may have an unfortunate name, according to Dutton, but the potential of this broadcast innovation is generating excitement among public broadcasters, policy makers, College of Communication Arts & Sciences administrators and faculty. Dutton explained the hype and history behind this ambitious initiative to help welcome Commissioner O’Rielly and catch faculty and staff up to speed on ATSC 3.0.
ATSC 3.0 is the merging of broadcasting and the Internet. This new broadcast platform offers the affordances of the Internet, such as customized content and more viewing options (e.g. choosing from various camera angles during a live game), while using a broadcast signal. This allows flexible, adaptable and future focused programming for broadcast television, including public stations like WKAR.
O’Rielly toured WKAR studios and the College of Communication Arts & Sciences before joining the presentations. During his visit, O’Reilly announced that WKAR-TV is the first public broadcasting station awarded an experimental license to use ATSC 3.0 over the airways. Only a handful of broadcasters across the nation will have this unique opportunity, he explained, and WKAR is the only broadcasting station to explore and develop this next generation broadcasting for public television.
With the experimental license, WKAR studios and College of Com Arts will continue to build a state of the art ATSC 3.0 Media Innovation Lab. Dutton, who was part of a strong group that advocated to save MSU’s broadcast spectrum and establish a center at MSU to experiment with ATSC 3.0, explained the potential behind this cutting-edge broadcast system and reflected on how the university considered auctioning off WKAR-TV spectrum at the FCC Incentive Auction in 2016.
“There was financial incentive, potentially over $206 million” Dutton explained. However, the potential loss of WKAR was met with public backlash when hundreds of people gathered for a forum on the issue in January of 2016. Ultimately, the university decided that the end of over-the-air public television in Lansing, the deepening divides in access to broadcasting and the lost potential for broadcast innovations was not worth the money. With the decision to keep WKAR on the airwaves, thought leaders and advocates like Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences, decided that a partnership between the college and WKAR could help shape the future of broadcast.
The potential crisis was averted when MSU pulled out of the auction, Dutton said, now we have decisions to make about the potential for research and policy. Among other things, ATSC 3.0 will require policy considerations surrounding issues of localism, diversity, privacy and security. Research is required to determine best practices and inform policy decisions.
The potential for the Media Innovation Lab is immense, Dutton continued, “we can do technical experiments to improve reception in rural areas and distressed areas of Lansing, and we can figure out different approaches to providing two way interactive digital content as well as targeted content.”
Dutton listed other capabilities and considerations for the lab as a testbed for personalization and new applications and services including alerts and information related to health, medical, emergency or public service announcements. The Next Gen Media Innovation lab can serve as a platform for user behavior research related to user adoption of ATSC 3.0, patterns of use and impacts of the technology. Dutton believes that such a lab can help improve public broadcasting in Lansing and attract students to the college who value being at the cutting edge of broadcast innovations.
Commissioner O’Rielly expressed his gratitude to WKAR and other public broadcasters for leading the way in television and broadcast research, saying “commercial broadcasters are not very good at doing research, because public broadcasters are so good at it.” He explained, how commercial entities are able to use the research of public media broadcasters, such as WKAR, and modify approaches for commercial use. O’Reilly expressed excitement and awe of WKAR studios and Com Arts, admitting that in his 25-years of public service he had never visited a public broadcasting station.
Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Quello Center:
Since my last up-date, our Postdoctoral Researcher, Bianca C. Reisdorf, and Assistant Research Professor, Aleksandr Yankelevich, have come onboard. In collaboration with our Research Associates and Assistants, they have enabled us to move forward on new research proposals with some early success.
Developing Research Foci: Digital Inequalities and Net Neutrality
The mission of the James and Mary Quello Center is to conduct high-quality research that will stimulate and inform debate on media, communication, and information policy for our digital age. A wide range of policy issues have been identified for study, but two general areas have emerged from our early work, which focus on:
Our plan to develop a natural experiment to assess the impact of net neutrality rulings has drawn a number of faculty together across the campus in shaping some preliminary research, and proposals which we hope to submit in the coming months.
Two proposals have been accepted, and several others are submitted or underway to study digital divides and inequalities in Detroit, Michigan, and across the United States.
Researching Locally to Speak Globally
The Quello Center is moving ahead in focusing greater attention on new Internet and digital age policy issues with an even more multi-disciplinary set of researchers and strong additions to our remarkable Advisory Board. We address issues that arise from: problems such as risks to privacy and freedom of expression; innovations such as around the Internet of Things and wearables; policies such as net neutrality, price cap regulation of access services, and universal broadband; and contexts, such as issues in cities like Detroit, and in households. To do so, we draw from theoretical perspectives, such as the Fifth Estate, sociological and communication perspectives on information inequalities, work on the ecology of games as well as game theoretical economics; and from innovative empirical approaches, such as a novel design for a national broadband availability dataset.
Over this last year, the Center has found a number of local developments that present clear opportunities to pursue issues that are of nationwide and global concern. This has led us to anchor more of our research locally, such as in looking at digital divides in Michigan and Detroit, and in developing ideas for new research on the use of wireless spectrum for last mile access, and for experiments addressing digital inequalities and the future of public broadcasting. In these areas, we plan to work with the local public broadcasting station, WKAR, and faculty across the university. Together, we can realize the opportunities created by MSU choosing to forgo the FCC’s incentive auction of spectrum in favor of turning the station and its spectrum into an even greater resources for research, teaching, and service, such as through an MSU partnership announced with Detroit public broadcasting to create more educational programming.
Quello Center Seminars and Lectures at MSU, in Washington DC & Worldwide
The Center organizes and promotes an active stream of roundtables, seminars, and lectures to stimulate discussion of policy and regulatory issues. Recent lectures and events have focused on Internet policy and regulation, network neutrality, social media and reputation management, digital inequalities, and social accountability. In addition to holding events at the Center and in Washington DC, we have been speaking at a variety of other universities, conferences, and events organized by others. For example, Quello helps support the Telecommunication Policy Research Conference (TPRC), and the director has spoken recently in Canada, Argentina, Denmark, South Africa, Hong Kong, China, Japan, and Mexico.
A list of past and forthcoming events are available at: http://quello.msu.edu/events/ and videos of many of our events are available on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/quellocenter.
Selected Working Papers on Research, Policy and Practice
All of our research reports, working papers, and publications are listed on our Web site at: http://quello.msu.edu/publications/. A set of papers that illustrate the range of our work includes:
Bauer, J. M. and Dutton, W. H. (2015), ‘The New Cyber Security Agenda,’ for the World Bank Development Report. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2614545 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2614545
Dutton, W.H. and Graham, M. (2014), Society and the Internet (Oxford University Press).
Dutton, W. H. (2015), ‘Multistakeholder Governance?,’ for the World Bank Development Report. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2615596 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2615596
Reisdorf, B. C., & Groselj, D. (2015). ‘Internet (non-) Use Types and Motivational Access: Implications for Digital Inequalities Research,’ New Media & Society, Online First.
Reisdorf, B. C., & Jewkes, Y. (2016). ‘(B)Locked Sites: Cases of Internet Use in Three British Prisons,’ Information, Communication & Society, 1-16.
UNESCO (2015), Keystones to Foster Inclusive Knowledge Societies. Paris: UNESCO.
The English version is available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002325/232563E.pdf.
Yankelevich, A., & Vaughan, B. `Price-Match Announcements in a Consumer Search Duopoly.’ Forthcoming at Southern Economic Journal.
Access to the Work of the Quello Center
Over the past year, we have also made strides to providing numerous ways to keep in touch with the Quello Center’s work. In addition to this newsletter, we have a:
• Quello Center Blog
• Quello Facebook Page
• Twitter handle @QuelloCenter
• Working Paper Series on SSRN
• Videos of most of many of our lectures and seminars on Vimeo
Thank you again, and please keep in touch. Follow the work and ideas of the Quello Center on Twitter or Facebook, and write to the Center at Quello@msu.edu if you have any questions, suggestions, or wish to be added to our email list.
William Dutton, Director
Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy