"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 Spell Out 3.0 Recommendations
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.
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.)