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ATSC’s Mark Richer to receive 2010 NAB Engineering Achievement Award

For Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and winner of the 2010 NAB Engineering Achievement Award for Television, the DTV transition began on Line 21 of Field 1 of the analog TV signal.

Richer, who for more than a decade at the ATSC has helped shepherd the industry through the complexities of its transition from analog to digital, points to his work on developing closed-captioning as a PBS laboratory technician as the gateway that led to his unique role in the transition. Recognized for his efforts in closed-captioning, Richer rose through the ranks of PBS, where he ultimately became VP of engineering and computer services.

In his senior engineering role at PBS, Richer was responsible for developing new technologies and was asked to serve on the FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced Television. As a committee member, he served as chairman of the System Subcommittee Working Party on Test and Evaluation, which was charged with testing competing systems, including the digital approach offered by the HDTV Grand Alliance, which became the basis of the ATSC DTV standard.

“I got really lucky and was really fortunate to be a part of the advisory committee,” Richer said. “It was a fascinating time.”

With the long, hard work of the DTV transition coming to a close for broadcasters in June 2009, equally important issues are occupying Richer and the work of ATSC these days. “I believe the things we are working on now are absolutely essential to the future of over-the-air broadcasting,” Richer said.

Those activities, which culminated in the successful standardization process for mobile DTV, will prove to be critical in helping to reinvent the broadcast business. “Going mobile will be a major key to success,” he said. “Adding non-real-time functionality that lets mobile DTV users download content is the next important step.”

Richer, who says he avoids the politics of spectrum, didn’t offer any comments on the FCC’s new National Broadband Plan but is bullish on the future of over-the-air broadcasting.

“The fact is over-the-air broadcasting, especially to devices that move, is a very efficient and effective service,” he said. “I believe broadcasters are approaching mobile DTV with a great deal of energy and leadership. It will be a success. Consumers and the government will realize mobile DTV will be a fabulous use of spectrum.”

Being named the winner of the 2010 NAB Engineering Achievement Award for Television is a bit humbling, Richer said. “Everybody says this, and it is true. You look at the list of past recipients and you are overwhelmed,” he said. “I just hope whoever wins next year feels the same way.”

Richer, along with the winner of the 2010 NAB Engineering Achievement Award for Radio Steve Church, will be presented with their awards at the NAB Technology Luncheon on Wednesday, April 14, during the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.