Jim Kutzner

Senior Director, Advanced Technology, PBS

As broadcasters look for ways to reinvent their businesses,
one of this year’s Technology Leader Award winners is
playing a central role in two key initiatives that could
shape the future of television.

Jim Kutzner is helping drive standards and practices
for mobile video delivery and the mobile DTV emergency
alert system. The former revolves around the idea that
broadcast TV’s future lies in mobility—using part of the
existing broadcast spectrum to deliver video not only to
the home but also to smartphones, tablets and even cars.

Kutzner was an early proponent of mobile digital-TV
broadcasts and has been working with the Open Mobile
Video Coalition (OMVC) since its launch in 2007. He
is vice-chair of the OMVC Technology Advisory Group.

OMVC’s work played a key role in the approval of the
A/153 ATSC Mobile-DTV Standard in October 2009 by
the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ASTC). Two
other industry consortia, the Mobile Content Venture and
the Mobile500 Alliance, are planning to use that standard
to launch mobile digital TV services this year.

Kutzner has also been working with three public TV
stations to test the use of mobile-DTV signals to provide
emergency alerts. As part of that effort, cofounded by LG
and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the team has
also been putting together suggestions for changing the
ATSC mobile DTV standard to better handle those alerts.

Similar alerts were critical in conveying vital information
in Japan during last year’s devastating earthquake and
tsunami, and the development of mobile-DTV alerting
technologies in the U.S. could encourage more consumers
and stations to adopt mobile-DTV technologies.

Kutzner has been pivotal in the creation of ATSC 3.0,
an ambitious effort to create a next-generation standard for
digital broadcasting. The work on ATSC 3.0 will take years
to complete and raises a number of thorny issues, including
the type of business models that broadcasters might
want to pursue in the future. Kutzner’s ATSC 3.0 industry
committee will have to develop technologies to enable
those business models and, at the same time, come up
with a standard that is financially feasible to implement.

That requirement is particularly important because
ATSC 3.0 won’t be compatible with the ATSC 1.0 currently
being used, or the upcoming 2.0 version. While this
will allow the next-generation standard to enable a number
of new businesses, it will also require major changes in
broadcast infrastructures and will have to deal with whatever
regulatory changes are made to broadcast spectrum.

“To make this work we will have to meld the technology,
business and regulatory environments,” Kutzner says. “But
because of the acceleration of technology, we can’t stand
still. If the broadcast industry wants to survive the growing
competition and remain relevant, we need to change.”

Kutzner comes to this work from decades of broadcast
engineering experience, beginning in 1973 at Twin Cities
Public Television (KTCA/KTCI-TV). He worked at PBS
from 1990 to 1993 and then rejoined the organization
full time in 2001, holding the chief engineer title from
2003 to 2010, when he assumed his current position.

He has been active on industry committees for new
standards and technologies since the early 1990s. “I’ve
always been looking forward with technology,” Kutzner
says. “Even when I started in operations in the 1970s,
I was always the guy who was building something or
designing something.”