ETAC Column: My Favorite TechCon Session

by Bill Sanford, CEO & Director of Engineering, Lakeland PBS

First, I want to say that I’m honored to be serving on the ETAC again and I’m excited to be writing an article for TechNews.  My name is Bill Sanford and I serve as both the CEO and Director of Engineering at Lakeland PBS located in northern Minnesota.  We operate two stations:  KAWE, serving northern Minnesota, and KAWB, serving central Minnesota.  I’ve been with the station since 1985 when I was hired as Director of Engineering.

This is not my first rodeo on the ETAC.  I served in the past on what was then the PBS Engineering Committee from 1998 to 2005 and honestly thought that I was done serving in this capacity when my two terms ended in 2005.  Then along came OTT delivery.  When I saw the challenges we’re all facing on this front, I thought that I would offer to serve again and see if I could help move this initiative forward. My goal is to get our LOCAL live streams carried by all the OTT providers and for PBS to leverage sIX as a pathway for each member station to deliver a single local live stream to the cloud for stream replication and distribution to all the providers along with Passport and the PBS Video App.  I think this is an important step for our future.   

If you weren’t at TechCon this year, you missed many really excellent sessions.  I want to provide you with a very brief summary of one of my favorites regarding IT security.  Chris Ostertag of KLRU in Austin, Texas put together a very practical and informative session about IT security.  I’ve sat through other IT security presentations that go into great depth, but miss the mark with limited simple practical knowledge that any organization can use.  Chris’ presentation hit the mark for me with steps that any size station can take that will immediately improve your security situation in your organization.  He summarized his presentation with one slide that can change your IT world if you follow Chris’ advice. 

Here are Chris’ bullet points:

  • Use a password manager
  • Use multi-factor authentication
  • Keep all your systems updated
  • Only grant minimum access
  • Don’t ignore physical security
  • Train your users to be suspicious
  • Stop doing things that don’t work
  • Plan for all the above to fail

I’ll be the first to admit that we have some work to do at our station on most of these items.  I’m sure we could all do better.  My thoughts are that I’m going to pick one of Chris’ bullet points to work on at a time.  Baby steps make it easier to begin than trying to do it all at once.  Thanks Chris for the great presentation!  (Editor's note: join Chris Ostertag of KLRU for an update on this cybersecurity topic on a webinar Wednesday, May 8)

I want to challenge other station engineers to share your ideas at next year’s TechCon.  By far my favorite TechCon sessions are almost always done by someone from a station sharing a novel idea or way they figured out how to solve a problem that many of us face.  We need each of you to be willing to share your most innovative project or idea so that next year’s TechCon can be the best one ever!

I look forward to connecting with the stations I represent in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Feel free to reach out to me if I can help you with anything PBS related.  I can be reached at bsanford@lptv.org or at 218-333-3015.

Thank you!

Bill Sanford
CEO / Director of Engineering
Lakeland PBS