Presidential administrations come and go, but Roxane Kerr has held an influential office at C-SPAN for the past two decades.
Over the years, Kerr, 53, has led C-SPAN’s evolution from analog to digital video, as well as its introduction of video-on-demand and streaming Internet video. Today, she’s overseeing C-SPAN’s conversion to all-HD distribution, as the 2012 election season hits its apex this fall.
MCN: First job in cable?
Roxane Kerr: My career in the cable industry began as an intern at C-SPAN in 1982. At that time, at the fledgling network, I had the tremendous opportunity, with no real experience, to run camera and audio for coverage of congressional events. Eventually, I became a director and crew chief, and then was promoted to director of field operations responsible for managing a large team and, for the first time, for making decisions on technology.
In 1992, I moved into engineering (now called “technology”), and the rest is history. Twenty years later, I am responsible for the entire technical infrastructure of three television networks, our radio station, our multiple websites, satellite distribution and internal IT.
MCN: When did you know for sure you were destined to be in tech?
RK: I knew that I had an interest in and a knack for technology within my first year at C-SPAN. My goal out of college was to get a job, pay my dues and look for an opportunity to move into reporting and on-air work. But I was fortunate that my internship was in the field and I quickly realized how much I enjoyed the tech side of the company. The exposure to C-SPAN’s field equipment and the technology for moving television signals fascinated me. Pretty quickly, I was good at it and good at describing or teaching others about technology.
MCN: Stuff you’ve built or rebuilt?
RK: I have directed multiple rebuilds of the technical facilities for TV production and distribution, including analogto- digital and now our conversion to HD. We have rebuilt the physical plant several times to include new HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] and electrical systems and generators. Currently, the networks’ Technical Operations Center is being upgraded and completely redesigned (and moved to a new level within our building) to facilitate all-HD and a new information and production content management system.
MCN: The thing that drives you the most crazy about engineers/technologists?
RK: They know more than I do!
MCN: Wht drives you most crazy about non-techs?
RK: They think they know more than I do.
MCN: Top three things on your work to-do list for the rest of 2012?
RK: One, support our multiplatform coverage of C-SPAN’s Campaign 2012 (debates, election night, inauguration and our upcoming original First Ladies series). Two, complete the install of new video servers as the final phases of our conversion to HD. And three, launch a new integrated information and production content-management system.
MCN: Any kids, cats or dogs?
RK: My husband Mike and I are blessed with two fantastic kids. Much to the chagrin of my C-SPAN team, we did not name them “Uplink” and “Downlink.” Our oldest, Ryan, is a 2011 graduate of Duquesne University and is working for an issue-advocacy company specializing in social media for clients in D.C. Kathleen is a freshman at Duquesne majoring in communications.
MCN: The weirdest question about your job?
RK: Everyone I know thinks I have some secret “inside track” to the political goings- on, Capitol Hill gossip and who will win the election. I just tell them to watch and decide for themselves.