By: Russ White, MSU Today, WKAR

Congratulations are in order for WKAR Public Media. Recently, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters named WKAR Michigan Public Television Station of the Year and Public Radio Group One Station of the Year for 2018.

Listen to the interview here:

Susi Elkins

“I’m very proud of our team,” says Susi Elkins, director of broadcasting at Michigan State University and general manager of WKAR Public Media. “It’s always exciting to be recognized by your peers and so for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters to support us in this way is really fantastic. Our team works especially hard all year and so we always look forward to seeing if what we’ve done is resonating with our peers and if our hard work is paying off. So to be recognized in this way of course feels really good.”

Elkins provides updates on WKAR initiatives like WKAR Family, the Playtime Pad Research Project, and the development of ATSC 3.0 technology.

“ATSC 3.0 is essentially a new television standard. The unique part about it is that it’s a hybrid, So it’s part IP, part broadcast, and is still disseminated one to many like a standard broadcast. What’s unique about it is it’s much more efficient with the spectrum. It has a much stronger mobile capacity. It’s just a stronger signal so it can get through walls and potentially people can view TV over their phones and in their cars or automated vehicles. It’s also just a much more beautiful picture with over 20 channels of audio.

“We’re the first public broadcaster in the country to have this experimental license, so that’s really exciting, and I think that’s really because of our university license.”

Elkins was recently named to the board of directors of America’s Public Television Stations.

“One of the big challenges is really communicating the value of public broadcasting for the federal funding. It’s not a challenge to communicate value, because the general public has said over and over and voted to say that we’re a trusted organization. The president’s budget is proposing zeroing out funding for the corporation for public broadcasting, and that federal funding piece is extremely important to the entire infrastructure for public broadcasting around the country.

“We’re some of the last independently owned media organizations and communities across the country, and particularly in rural areas where there isn’t any viable commercial service, that federal funding piece is what really holds the whole infrastructure together. If you’re in a rural community with simply not enough of a population to support the expense of providing this content, then you can’t function without that federal funding piece. So it’s really important that all stations thrive and have that funding piece.”

As technology continues to expand at a fast pace, people are consuming WKAR content through a variety of platforms beyond the traditional broadcast signal.

“I just want to serve audiences when and where they are with what they need. The broadcast piece is extremely important to me and I think to our community members because it is free, over the year, and we’re reaching 98 percent of the population. So regardless of your resources you can have access to important, informative, educational, and entertaining content.

“We need to be relevant to people’s lives, and so if they want to listen via the app, we need to be there and be everywhere where people are in order to remain relevant. We know they love our content. We know we have very high quality and important content, so it’s our responsibility to make sure that we are adapting along with audiences to make sure it can be there for them at their convenience, not ours.”

Elkins offers her advice to young people who want to get into this ever-changing and fast-paced world and says WKAR will remain busy and innovative in 2019.

“We’re investing in education, public safety, and civic leadership. We’re really trying to be audience focused and community minded, and that’s what’s driving our decisions on where we go in the future.”