Broadcasters Spell Out 3.0 Recommendations

"The commission should allow the market, not regulatory dictates, to determine whether or not Next Gen is successful," said the NAB, Consumer Technology Association and America's Public Television Stations in joint comments on the FCC's next-gen TV standard proceeding. They recommend: a hands-off approach to the transitional ATSC 1.0 simulcast channels, make no changes to must-carry and retransmission consent rules and not require that TV sets to be equipped with 3.0 turners.

Broadcasters and the consumer electronics manufacturers called on the FCC to authorize promptly the voluntary use of the new ATSC 3.0 Next Gen broadcast standard with minimal government regulation and maximum broadcaster flexibility.

“The commission should allow the market, not regulatory dictates, to determine whether or not Next Gen is successful,” said the NAB, Consumer Technology Association and America’s Public Television Stations in joint comments filed yesterday in a proceeding in which the FCC is considering rules governing the implementation and use of the standard.

The three 3.0 proponents, along with the AWARN Alliance, petitioned the FCC to launch the rulemaking a year ago. The AWARN Alliance represents broadcasters and technology companies working on using 3.0 for emergency alerting.

The proponents urge the FCC to take a hands-off approach to the transitional ATSC 1.0 simulcast channels, make no changes to must-carry and retransmission consent rules and not require that TV sets to be equipped with 3.0 turners.

Because the new standard is not backward compatible with TV sets equipped to receive for the current 1.0 standard, the proponents say, broadcasters will have to simulcast programming with 1.0 during the indefinite transition to 3.0.

“The commission should afford broadcasters as much flexibility as possible in tailoring local simulcasting arrangements to best suit their viewers,” they say.

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Among other things, they say, flexibility means not requiring broadcaster to air the same programming on the 3.0 channel and the simulcast channel.

In fact, they says, the “commission … should not define simulcasting arrangements with respect to content at all. Without additional spectrum in which to conduct this transition, broadcasters will be forced to make difficult tradeoffs in attempting to balance the competing objectives of providing compelling content and services to drive consumer adoption of Next Gen and providing continuing service to viewers who are not yet ready to receive Next Gen signals.

“The commission should resist the urge to substitute its judgment for individual broadcasters who serve local communities.”

“Commission rules requiring broadcasters to transmit specific streams of programming would be unprecedented and would set the commission on a slippery slope towards content regulation.”

The proponents also say they should not be required to air the simulcast 1.0 programming in high definition.

“[T]he commission’s existing rules require only that a broadcaster provide a single, over-the-air standard definition stream for free. Thus, under the current rules, a broadcaster that is transmitting in higher than standard definition is already “permitted” to broadcast in a lower definition format than the one it uses today.

“Perplexingly, then, the [rulemaking] appears to contemplate imposing a higher regulatory burden on stations that choose to invest in their facilities to provide a superior service to viewers.”

The proponents say that broadcaster will have “every market incentive” to offer HD on the simulcast channels. Stations place a high priority on HD, and preserving multicast streams and advancements in compression technology will give broadcasters ever greater ability to maintain the programming and quality of simulcast channels without government mandates.

The proponents also argue against imposing coverage requirements for the simulcast channels.

“Imposing such requirements would only stymie Next Gen deployment, particularly in markets where there are a limited number of simulcasting partners.

“Such requirements, while well-intentioned, could inadvertently have the effect of leaving smaller or rural markets behind while Next Gen deployments move forward in larger markets.”

The proponents say they should be allowed to use vacant in-band channels during the transition to 2.0, suggesting that it could reduce viewer disruption.

Such permission “would encourage innovation and help protect viewers while also maximizing the efficient use of scarce spectrum resources,” the proponents say.

The proponents suggested a simplified approach to setting up the simulcasting channels. “The commission should seek to combine the regulatory certainty of separate licensing with the flexibility of multicasting by allowing stations to include simulcasting arrangements under their  existing licenses.

“Under this proposal, a station entering into a simulcasting arrangement with another station would file a letter informing the commission that it was entering a simulcasting arrangement with another station.

“For example, station A would file a letter informing the FCC that its ATSC 1.0 transmission would be transmitted from station B, and that station B’s ATSC 3.0 transmission would originate from station A.

“The commission would reflect this in a note on each station’s existing license, so that station  A’s license would cover both its Next Gen signal on station A and its ATSC 1.0 signal on  station B, while station B’s license would cover both its ATSC 1.0 signal on station B as well as its Next Gen signal on station A.

“This is consistent with commission practice. FCC licenses regularly include notes that explain, define or limit a station’s operating authority.”

The proponents say that the cable and satellite operators or MVPDs could satisfy their must-carry obligations by simply carrying the simulcast 1.0 signals.

Whether must-carry obligations should be extended to the 3.0 signals should be put off until broadcasters, MVPDs and the commission have some experience with how 3.0 is doing in the marketplace.

No changes to rules government retransmission consent are needed, the proponents say.

“If MVPDs find retransmission consent negotiations with a particular broadcaster unpalatable, they can elect not to agree to the broadcaster’s requests and not to carry the station.

“The FCC should not place a regulatory thumb on the scale of these private negotiations in advance of any actual marketplace developments by adopting rules that shield MVPDs from the market.”

The proponents say that the FCC should not require TV set manufacturers to incorporate 3.0 tuners in their sets. “Heavy-handed government regulation in the form of tuner mandates is wholly unnecessary and will only frustrate consumers , particularly those in markets where Next Gen is not yet available.

“Further, forcing consumer electronics manufacturers to include tuners consumers do not yet demand will undermine the inter-industry cooperation that has been the hallmark of the development of the new transmission standard.”

The proponents recommendations are at odds with those of cable commenters, including the American Television Alliance and the American Cable Association (click here.)


Comments (8)

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Teri Green says:

May 10, 2017 at 10:41 am

If anything, the transition to digital proved Americans, will not move formats till forced to. This dual broadcasting is nonsense. Just pick a day and force the move. You don’t need years of waiting for people to do something they won’t do anyway unless they have no choice.

    Gene Johnson says:

    May 10, 2017 at 10:47 am

    And on that day of the forced move what will people watch who lack TV’s capable of receiving the 3.0 signal? Because there is no backward compatibility, that would force consumers to have to buy new TVs, unless the industry is able to develop an “add on” device that would receive a 3.0 signal and convert it to something compatible with existing TVs (i.e., similar to the converter boxes mandatorily made available for the conversation to HDTV).

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    May 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

    @Eric: With a “flash cut” to ATSC 3.0 unless you provide them with a converter, as James V says, OTA viewers will soon be watching cable, satellite or OTT – or maybe just taking a walk outside…and broadcasting (as OTA) will be officially dead.

Meagan Zickuhr says:

May 10, 2017 at 10:59 am

WatchTV, Inc. is currently operating the nations largest ATSC 3.0 demonstration in Portland,
OR, using four of its Class A stations in the market. The testing includes the first multifrequency
deployment of ATSC 3.0 and also benefits from two distributed transmission sites to
enhance coverage.

Greg Herman, President and CEO of WatchTV said, “Our significant commitment to ATSC
3.0, and its success will continue in the coming months, as we further explore the art-of-thepossible
with this extremely capable and flexible, World-Class broadcasting system.”

The WatchTV ATSC 3.0 demonstration will continue, and further enhancements to the scale, complexity and
sophistication of the deployment are already being developed. To follow the latest developments of the WatchTV ATSC 3.0 demonstration, like SpectrumEvolution.org on Facebook.

Snead Hearn says:

May 10, 2017 at 11:58 am

I find it ironic that any broadcaster that makes the choice to invest substantially in their facilities to improve product and service to their viewers would face difficult regulatory burdens. Obviously a large segment of viewers will not make the switch until the very last so broadcasters need to take care of them or lose them.

Ellen Samrock says:

May 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

The success of 3.0 will depend, in large part, on broadcasters themselves; getting the word out and touting the new standard and its benefits to viewers. They did such a terrible job the first time with the DTV rollout that most consumers thought the Feds had shut down over-the-air TV entirely. Obviously, this was to preserve Pay-TV subscriptions with its lucrative retrans fees. But the end is near for Pay-TV. Nobody who has cut the cord now will be going back to cable or satellite, despite any wishful thinking to the contrary. More than likely the ultimate future for acquiring TV programs will be through Roku or similar device and using a network app. Retrans fees will slow to a trickle and broadcasters will be faced with a choice: either freely and vigorously promote free 3.0 OTA TV or face extinction.

Thomas Hubler says:

May 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm

The ATSC 3.0 Emperor has no clothes.

Trudy Rubin says:

May 10, 2017 at 9:03 pm

I can understand the American Cable Association recommendations, not that I agree with them. However broadcasters recommendations make no sense, it appears to be a recipe for the standard to fail, or perhaps just a desire to deploy 3.0 in certain markets, where mobile data would pay while leaving rural markets as second tier consumers. What broadband is in many rural areas, second tier to nonexistent. It would appear broadcasters view rural consumers the same way. At least by the above recommendations.


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