Broadcast Lab Passes First NAB Board Test

NAB CTO Kevin Gage tells the board that the time has come for a broadcast lab to speed development of broadcast TV and radio technology. A  final vote on establishing the lab could come early next year.

NAB Chief Technology Officer Kevin Gage formally proposed today the establishment of a research and development facility for broadcast TV and radio technology.

The NAB Lab would “establish thought leaders and push the limits of technology to enhance the broadcast industry,” the NAB said in a synopsis of the presentation that Gage made to the board, which is meeting in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

According to NAB, Lab would “provide a platform for innovation, a venue for forging partnerships and testing new technology, as well as an education component to create awareness about over-the-air radio and television technology initiatives.”

The lab would also incorporate the current NAB FastRoad program, providing funding for research, the NAB said.

“The Board expressed clear support for the idea of an NAB Lab,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “Its time has come. A decision on how it is funded and where it will be located will be forthcoming.”

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Kim Cavaliere says:

October 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

Why hasn’t the NAB been more proactive about this 5-10 years ago? Why make this announcement about a “decision” for next year??
The broadcast industry is a bunch of followers when it should be leading the charge with innovation with its spectrum. Sad…

    Ellen Samrock says:

    October 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Actually, given that band repacking is looking more and more like a reality, now is probably the right time for the NAB, by utilizing this lab, to start examining how broadcast TV can survive it. The CBO has said that it will take about 10 years to complete the process of spectrum reclamation. Hopefully, by that time, the NAB lab and the ATSC will have worked out a solution.

charles spencer says:

October 26, 2011 at 9:26 am

In fact, this HAS been proposed before, and rejected by the NAB Board. The cynic in me says it was because it might actually cost money to accomplish was the quick nail in the coffin, even though this has been badly needed for at over 20 years.

Jonathan Lemire & Laurie Kellman says:

October 26, 2011 at 10:17 am

Technology is changing our industry and we need our experts working on our behalf in a proactive fashion in order to recognize and maximize the benefits of technology. Great ideas should emerge flow from a broadcast lab. Charge forward Kevin Gage.

Dave Chumley says:

October 26, 2011 at 10:34 am

Let’s hope the NAB lab focuses on robust OTA reception by hand-held devices, 99% of the time at 99% of the locations EVERYWHERE within the radio horizon. That is the future of free TV broadcasting. This lab must not become the playpen of the same folks who brought us the present standard and are now focused on 3D and other such “enhancements.”

Todd Barkes says:

October 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

Forget about how long it took for understanding, and be thankful that NAB has a leadership that seems to be engaged in seeking solutions. Innovation will have to be accompanied by regulatory changes, and when NAB gets a handle on the real requirements there, we will be “cookin'” What is clear is that the NAB leadership appears to be leading the board to where they need to be headed. If the Board listens to smart people, and if smart people are looking for a long future and are willing to engage the whole industry, we will prevail as an industry. Good move…just get the right partners!

    May-Wine Nyi Nyi says:

    October 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Agreed. Ideally NAB would have done parallel work during the development of ATSC, for instance. But get over it.. What will be interesting is how this effort will be mounted without undue influence from any number of entities.

    len Kubas says:

    October 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    removing the influence of consumer electronics companies (major influencers at ATSC) will be welcome, no?

Tony Alexander says:

October 26, 2011 at 11:49 am

Yes, this is quite remarkable…how the broadcast industry could not have a research and development laboratory at a time when technology mostly rules the market. The lack of an R&D facility explains a great deal about the industry and NAB. A few points:
1. The CBS Technology Center (which was originally called CBS Labs) was closed in 1986 when Laurence Tisch took control of CBS and got rid of several things in a major cutback to make the company more profitable. CBS Labs was started in about 1936, so it lasted about 50 years.
2. The David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton was started in about 1940 and went along quite well for nearly 50 years while RCA, and then GE, owned NBC and the Research Center. In 1988 (just about two years after the closing of CBS Labs), the DSRC was moved to Sarnoff Corporation which was a wholly owned subsidiary of SRI International. I think now the Sarnoff Corporation has merged into the parent company. At one point Sarnoff proposed to NAB that they would be the research and development organization for the industry and work at NAB’s direction for the rather modest sum of $1.0 million per year (thus saving the investment in an entirely new facility).
Both of these research facilities did outstanding research for the broadcast industry, for the consumer electronics industry and for the defense industries. Many new products were developed at these facilities. They were a huge asset to the U.S. and to U.S. broadcasters. Much of the IP developed at these facilities was eventually transferred or licensed to American manufacturing companies (and to several non-American companies).
3. A broadcast lab has been discussed several times since the closing of the above labs. Do you expect something to happen now? If so, why? From what I see, NAB thinks they are mostly a persecuted industry because of technology. They are not alone in this feeling. Almost all industries that have not looked to the future are in the same position as NAB and the broadcasters.
4. NAB currently runs the largest broadcast equipment trade show in the world (although there are a few competitors outside of the US that may eventually surpass them for many of the same reasons that resulted in the closure of the CBS and Sarnoff facilities). But, NAB generates at least $30 million to $40 million per year from exhibitors at this event, many of them (but not all of them) selling to the broadcast industry and some of them also developing technology or licensing technology from other R&D facilities from around the world. A suggested plan here is to earmark some of the net income from the annual NAB Show and dedicate those funds for use by a new R&D facility. However, for this to happen, equipment manufacturers (and other technology companies) need to be involved in the governance of the R&D organization. It is amazing to me that the technology companies that do exhibit at NAB have never asked for more involvement in the governance of NAB itself since the exhibitors pay considerably more of NAB’s total revenue than do member dues.
5. Many of the NAB Board members are not really broadcast entrepreneurs; they are, instead, corporate employees reporting up through a very large company. These individuals do not know technology; they only care about preserving their compensation and position. Take no risks is their mantra. They might know about business, but they know nothing about what it takes to develop technology.
6. NAB (as an organization) is overwhelmingly top heavy. At last count, there are 12 Executive Vice Presidents here, presumably each with a turf to protect. How could this group develop a plan for the future?
7. The current NAB organization keeps constantly reinventing the wheel. In some respects, they are like the current Obama administration. They pay no attention to the past because they are smarter than everyone else and they will do it their way, even though most of their “way” was already traversed many times before them.

    len Kubas says:

    October 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    boring, and unreadable.