From his office in Santa Barbara, Mark Danielson, the general manager of News-Press Gazette California, is less than 100 miles from the Woolsey Fire that’s still raging outside of Los Angeles.
Danielson is no stranger to natural disasters. He’s helped to manage coverage from KEYT-TV ABC and KKFX-TV FOX during the Thomas Fire, at the time the largest in California’s history in late 2017 and destructive and deadly mudslides in the beginning of 2018.
The devastation from those two events spurred the ownership group to invest in advanced broadcast TV technology, known as Next Gen TV or ATSC 3.0, that will strengthen its emergency response system.
“Unfortunately, we see there’s a new normal of intense fire seasons and more natural disasters. ATSC 3.0 will let us make our communities safer during those events,” Danielson said.
Next Gen TV combines the best features of free over-the-air broadcast with broadband technology. It’s still in its early stages in the United States. The first Next Gen-capable TVs are expected to go on sale in 2020.
When they do, stations like KEYT and KKFX will be able to enhance their emergency alert systems. Thanks to improved location-targeting abilities, broadcasters will be able to send notifications to precise areas about what’s going on in their neighborhoods. Personalization capabilities will also allow users to choose the language in which they want to receive emergency information.
Next Gen TV also has the ability to “wake up” devices that are turned off during an emergency, so community members can be kept informed even in the middle of the night. And, multimedia files — such as maps, videos and photos — can be added to emergency alerts. A photo of missing child could be added to an Amber Alert, for instance, or a map to an alert announcing an approaching storm.
“Our recent experience hits home what we’ve always known: Disasters and emergencies don’t always happen from 9 to 5. They happen in the middle of the night when people have their devices turned off. The new wake-up feature will keep people safer and make it easier for them to protect their property,” Danielson said.
The benefits of Next Gen TV extend beyond emergency alerts. With Next Gen TV, viewers can expect higher-quality video, immersive audio and better reception indoors.
Because Next Gen TV is more efficient in encoding video and audio signals, stations will be able to broadcast more content over the same amount of TV spectrum that they use today. The result: More news and entertainment options available — for free — to viewers than ever before.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to allow broadcasters to use the Next Gen TV standard on a voluntary basis. Broadcasters are eager to unleash the next generation of broadcast television to provide better services for viewers.
As a small, family-owned broadcaster, News-Press Gazette California is excited to be involved and help shape the future of television.
“We’re so happy to be involved in developing Next Gen TV. It’s a great opportunity to make sure we’re getting the news to people who need it, when they need it,” Danielson said.
More than 2.42 million American jobs depend on broadcasting, and the local broadcast radio and television industry - and the businesses that depend on it - generate $1.18 trillion annually for the nation's economy.