Jerald Fritz of ATSC 3.0 system proponent ONE Media: “Broadcast television — like every other information medium — needs the freedom to evolve. We need to lose the economic, regulatory and engineering shackles that bind us to the silos of a single, fixed reception device anchored to the living room wall. So how do we do that? We’ve done that by reimagining our business. And that starts with a clear, clean, efficient way to get our signals to viewers wherever they are, using whatever equipment they have. Local broadcasters have a better idea.”
Broadcasters are taking back broadcasting.
The nonsense that cell phone offerings of “LTE and DVB Broadcasting” in their various flavors — demonstrably less efficient and lower quality wireless substitutes for over-the-air broadcasting — are satisfactory replacements for what local broadcasters do is one of the great con jobs of the 21st century “Newspeak.”
Broadcast — point to multipoint — is a phenomenally efficient use of spectrum. Nothing — as in nothing — has been devised that is more proficient in transmitting data to multiple users. It has been encrusted, however, by regulatory barnacles and been cleverly redefined by voracious competitors to constrain its growth and limit its potential.
Just read the recent trades. They are replete with dire predictions that broadcast TV is going the way of AM radio; that millennials are driving viewing consumption to other platforms, leaving broadcasting with their flip phones.
And the only people still concerned about broadcasting are regulators who haven’t figured out that the world is not flat — that new platforms have eviscerated the need for the economic regulations not imposed on functionally equivalent competitors.
Broadcasting, as in “Broadcast Television” — like every other information medium — needs the freedom to evolve. We need to lose the economic, regulatory and engineering shackles that bind us to the silos of a single, fixed reception device anchored to the living room wall. So how do we do that?
We’ve done that by reimagining our business. And that starts with a clear, clean, efficient way to get our signals to viewers wherever they are, using whatever equipment they have. We’ve designed our own racehorse — not the camel manufactured for us by others. Local broadcasters have a better idea.
Our aging compromise standard, mistakenly adopted 20 years ago, may work just fine for fixed TVs in living rooms with rooftop antennas and line-of-sight to transmitting towers, but does nothing for the baseball game viewer deep in the building basement; the beachgoer who wants binge-watch five episodes of the Good Wife or Revenge without a fading signal; the train commuter hoping to catch a glitch-free newscast as he travels the rails at 80 miles per hour; or the fan who wants to watch replays in his college football stadium on his iPad without the picture buffering for 20 seconds because thousands of others are using the same inefficiently designed service simultaneously.
Yes, the business of “television broadcasting” is a part of our heritage, a part of today, and certainly a part of what we want to do tomorrow … but there is so much more we can do!
Broadcasters are not naïve about the process. Compromise and consensus drive the Advanced Television Systems Committee. And broadcasters owning hundreds and hundreds of stations have joined in that march in full force.
If the process is not being driven by the best and the brightest from within our own ranks, how do we expect that tomorrow we will be able to any more than we do today except for bigger, better pictures and sound?
Our critical path to viewers must permit evolving growth of the broadcast industry, not bind it to be fit only for fixed viewing by the 55-plus demo which has been our target audience for 70-plus years. There is a growing realization that this new standard is the ticket to dramatic expansion and opportunities in our business.
Broadcaster groups such Pearl and the newly formed Broadcaster Caucus (an inclusive group of broadcast station groups) working with the National Association of Broadcasters have coalesced to support the next-gen transmission standard with an aggressive, singular commitment to have the system fully tested and operational well in advance of the FCC’s spectrum auction.
Here is what we broadcasters demand:
A standard reinvented for high-speed mobile and pedestrian use. We want deep indoor fixed receiver reception, and we want 4K UltraHD delivery to traditional over-the-air antennas. The standard should be designed to permit single-frequency networks to help restore lost reception to vast areas of the country created by the government’s glaring failure to protect translators and low power stations in the proposed spectrum auction.
We want flexibility to transition from the outdated transmission standard that unconscionably prevented early adoption of mobile service and flexibility to optimize the system for use in different markets.
And importantly, we want it as close to NOW as possible.
To be quite clear, unlocking the evolution potential of the broadcast platform is not solely about better linear TV that we’ve always done. The migration will permit broadcasters to deliver all forms of stored content — mass data, e-books, short- and long-form video on demand, safety updates, constant, updating news.
This is also not a network vs. affiliate issue of program access; it’s about the ability of all broadcasters to exploit the business opportunities that our platform inherently permits.
As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said regarding the spectrum auction: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” He was talking about selling channels. We remaining broadcasters are talking about implementing this new standard co-incident with the channel repack. It makes absolutely no sense commercially or from a public policy perspective to make broadcasters change antennas, towers and transmitters twice when it can be easily done once. We should keep our viewers in mind and coordinate this migration for their benefit.
It is past time for broadcasters to rise up and declare: We will not be relegated to the past. We demand to grow. We will have a new, robust, flexible way to reach our viewers wherever they are with programming and signal quality that will make them gasp in awe. And we will not be saddled with patchwork, “good enough for TV” system devised by our competitors to limit our vision.
It is time to say to our wireless competitors, foreign device manufacturers and regulatory champions, we as broadcasters are unanimously united with a considered and tested plan designed by local broadcasters for local broadcasters and we have the will and means to execute it.
Just get out of our way. The racehorse is ready to run.
Jerald Fritz is executive vice president for strategic and legal affairs of ONE Media LLC. He can be reached at [email protected].