WNMU-TV director re-elected as MAPB president

Von Lanier

Eric Smith, director of broadcast visual and audio services and General Manager of WNMU-TV 13 was recently re-elected as president of the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasting (MAPB) for a second term.

“We have some unfinished business that we’re trying to take care of at the MAPB level,” Smith said. “There are things that we started this year that are going to carry over into the next year so it kind of gives me one more year to help work on some of those projects.”

Smith’s duties as President of MAPB will continue for the length of another year in addition to his role at the WNMU-TV station. He said he plans to continue development of a terrestrial- based, fiber optic internet link that will allow MAPB to “take it to the next level” in terms of sharing programs between TV stations across the state.

He added, public stations in Michigan need to become better linked in order to share content, and by leveraging the existing fiber optic internet links, the organization [MAPB] will save large sums of money by not having to share media between stations using the more traditional method of satellite uplink.

“This can be very expensive,” he said.

According to Smith, it would be cheaper if MAPB made the conversion to regularly use the fiber optic internet link to share media content rather than sharing packages via satellite and then paying for the satellite uplink time.

If this interconnect project is approved, each station of MAPB would bear the hardware costs associated with their market size and need, Smith said.

“That’s a one-time equipment expense. It’s not going to be a lot of money so I’m not too worried about it. It’s just something that would allow us to make the switch and ultimately would save us money in the long run,” Smith said.

In order for the fiber optic initiative to go into effect, according to Smith, each station of the MAPB will have to collaborate on points of commonality and figure out what works best for each station.

Getting each station together “on the same page” is a challenge when you get down to the details of how you’re going to do it since each station has its own protocol when it comes for trading files back and forth, Smith said.

Once all the stations are on board with the standards of the protocol, MAPB could move ahead with finalizing a budget and begin to work with internet service providers like MERIT to get the program up and running. MERIT is a higher education networking internet service provider that that has the capacity and engineering performance to support high-bandwidth applications like NMU’s Educat. MERIT also provides a service to 100 percent of public universities in Michigan.

The position of president of MAPB is not a paid one. However, Smith said he puts himself through the extra work because he enjoys observing students being at the epicenter of what’s happening in quality production in the media industry.

Students won’t get to work directly with using the fiber optic internet link until development of the link has been perfected by the engineers of MAPB, but this state-of-the art equipment is currently in production.

“What’s in it for me is what’s in it for NMU and our students. When a student comes down these steps and they walk in and they do Public Eye News, what they’re getting the benefit of is the experiences that go with a station that’s doing pretty cutting edge things—amazing things,” Smith said.

Smith is an Eastern Michigan University graduate and holds a master’s degree from NMU in public administration. He’s worked for 40 years in broadcasting and has also served as the former vice president for MAPB.

“Ultimately, when the viewers, listeners and consumers of our services say ‘wow, this place really knows what it’s all about, they’re doing good things, that makes me happy,” he said.