Lawson Leaves APTS for Ion

John Lawson, boss of the Association of Public Television Stations, has changed channels and will now wear the hat of Ion Media Networks as executive vice president for policy and strategic initiatives.

Lawson’s move from “Masterpiece Theater” to “Baywatch” might surprise some. But the two operations share an ambitious view of the potential of the digital TV signal in applications like datacasting and mobile TV. At Ion, he’ll be involved in the company’s drive toward deployment of a commercial mobile video service by the first quarter of 2009.

That’s just part of his job, which also includes driving policy strategy for Ion’s broadcast and digital initiatives, plus developing proposals for key public interest issues. He will play a leading role in business development around digital technologies and new content alliances. His role will touch on every aspect of Ion’s business plan, including advertising and subscription revenue issues, the company said.

“He has a tremendous pedigree and successful track record in broadcast policy and carriage agendas for the digital age,” said Brandon Burgess, Ion chairman and CEO. “John has also played a valuable role in developing the Open Mobile Video Coalition. We are very fortunate that he will be putting his unique skill set to work for ION and helping us achieve key public policy and business goals.”

During Lawson’s seven-year tenure at APTS, public stations made giant strides toward DTV, datacasting for educational and public safety applications, the digital Emergency Alert System, and the broadcasting of HDTV. He helped get Congress to invest $500 million in public television digital infrastructure, according to APTS.

“When I came to APTS in 2001, I was told that Public Television was viewed on Capitol Hill as a ‘problem.’ If there is anything that I have been able to accomplish at APTS it is to reposition us as a solution to some of our nation’s most pressing problems,” Lawson said. “And that’s how we convinced Congress to fund our digital transition, increase our [Corporation for Public Broadcasting] appropriations and expand our role in education and homeland security. I’m also gratified with the voluntary agreements with the cable industry, Version and DirecTV to extend our new digital programming into tens of millions of American homes.”

Lawson was a founding board member of the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) and has been elected to its executive committee. He also served on the FCC’s Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee. He was appointed to the FCC’s Media Security and Reliability Council, and served on the board of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training.

Ion (formerly Paxson Communications) owns 60 TV stations covering some 83 percent of the nation’s TV households.