The trade group releases statistics on the importance of broadcasting to Americans in times of emergencies. And NAB CTO Sam Matheny goes before the House Communications Subcommittee to spell out the many advances ATSC 3.0 will give stations in keeping the public informed in times of crisis. He urges them to make sure stations have the time and resources to complete the mandated spectrum repack.
NAB: ATSC 3.0 Could Help Save Lives
The National Association of Broadcasters released new research today from Morning Consult confirming the critical role that broadcasters play in times of emergency. The polling shows that in emergency situations, Americans turn to broadcast TV and radio above all other media by a factor of nearly four to one, NAB said.
In an online survey of 2,251 adults 18-plus conducted March 16-19, Morning Consult found that nearly six in 10 adults are most likely to use local radio and TV stations and/or broadcast networks for updates in the event of an emergency. While 57% of respondents selected local radio, TV and/or broadcast networks as the media of choice during dangerous weather or emergency conditions, other sources of media rated much lower: text messages (15%, online news sources (14%) and cable news (12%).
Morning Consult’s polling comes as NAB Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny prepared to testify today at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on emergency alerting capabilities. Matheny will highlight the broadcast TV industry’s planned voluntary transition to Next Generation Television, which will include dramatic improvements in local TV public safety capabilities.
In his prepared remarks, Metheny emphasized how seriously broadcasters take their commitment to protecting the public. “Broadcasters invest heavily to ensure they remain on the air in times of disaster. Facilities often have redundant power sources, automatic fail-over processes, generator back up and substantial fuel reserves. Because of the strength of the broadcast infrastructure and the power of the airwaves, local radio and TV stations are often the only available communications medium during disaster situations, even when cell phone and wireless networks can be unreliable.”
Next Gen TV, the proposed ATSC 3.0 TV transmission standard under consideration by the FCC, he said, “has the potential to revolutionize broadcasting.” Metheny reiterated broadcasters’ case for the new tech, saying “we are simply asking to be able to use our spectrum licenses more efficiently and to better serve our viewers. We are not asking for any additional spectrum, government funds or mandates.”
In addition to the many technological advances 3.0 will enable, including ultra-high definition pictures, wireless delivery, interactive experiences for users on the television and second-screen devices and multiple program streams, Metheny stressed that “these same Next Gen TV characteristics and capabilities will enable significant life-saving advances in emergency communications.”
ATSC 3.0 transmission will allow TV stations to improve public safety, Metheny said, through advanced features including:
- “Wake up” functionality — Next Gen TV enabled receivers can be “woken up” to process alerts even when they are powered off. This feature could be utilized during sudden and unexpected emergencies like tornados or bomb threats.
- Reach — Using the one-to-many architecture of broadcasting, alerts can be sent simultaneously to an unlimited number of enabled devices: both fixed and mobile devices, including automobiles within a broadcaster’s service contour.
- Geo-targeting — Utilizing an enabled device’s location through GPS or otherwise, alerts can be geo-targeted to deliver specific alerts to specific areas, such as storm paths or evacuation routes. This Next Gen TV feature can mitigate the problem of so-called “over-alerting.”
- Personalization — Users will be able to pre-determine the types of alerts or hazard levels that will trigger the display of an alert on their devices, and even potentially select alerts for another geographic area (such as a child’s school).
- Hybrid/Interactive services — Because Next Gen TV is IP-based and able to connect to communications return paths such as broadband and LTE networks, recipients of alerts can send information back to authorities that originated an alert. For example, a recipient of an AMBER alert regarding a missing child could immediately report seeing the child and the precise location and direction of a suspect vehicle in real time.
In closing, Metheny urged the legislators to ensure that broadcasters have enough time and money available to them to complete the spectrum repack that is forcing stations to move in the wake of the FCC’s incentive auction.
“With the conclusion of the auction,” he said, “there will be less spectrum allocated for broadcasting and fewer stations. In order to compete and continue to serve our communities, broadcasters will need to innovate and provide the types of compelling services like those enabled by Next Gen TV. NAB asks that policymakers ensure that broadcasters have adequate time and resources to successfully relocate, not only to keep Congress’s promise that broadcasters would be held harmless, but also to provide the certainty that an investment in Next Gen TV requires. Broadcasters are willing and ready to make the necessary investments in our infrastructure to provide what we believe will be truly groundbreaking improvements to free, over-the-air television for the benefit of viewers across the country.”