The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to extend the Next Generation TV standard, or ATSC 3.0, to broadcasters.
The Commission said that the voluntary standard will allow stations to use a wide range of advanced features, including Ultra High Definition, mobile viewing, interactive children’s content, improved accessibility features and advanced emergency alerts..
Broadcasters who plan to use the standard and simulcasting are required to give the public advance notice via on-air notifications to be sure that consumers understand the offer.
The FCC said that the standard allows flexibility for broadcasters who want to deploy the Next Generation TV service with the ATSC 3.0 standard, which is delivered using the same 6 MHz channels assigned to other digital television services.
The ATSC standard was tested in the Cleveland media market during the Major League Baseball World Series in 2016, which helped provide data needed to adopt the new standard. The National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Technology Association recently announced plans to operate a full-power Channel 31 transmission facility in the city in accordance with the standard.
NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith last month praised the new standard as a way to “reinvent free and local TV.”
“Notably, a transition to Next Gen TV requires broadcasters to use no additional spectrum,” he said. “Just as American broadcasters led the world in a consumer stampede to high definition television two decades ago, we are ready to usher in a new era of broadcasting that will be pro-consumer and pro-innovation.”
Not all FCC commissioners were pleased with the plan, which passed in a 3-2 vote.
Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said in a dissenting statement that in its present form the standard “could actually create an unacceptable, unjustified, and unwanted digital television divide for those with limited financial means” between consumers who can afford to upgrade and those who cannot.
“It will do more for existing broadcasters than for the future of the industry and it will do much more for those companies’ bottom line than for the nation’s unsuspecting viewers,” Clyburn said.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also stated her concerns about the possible cost of the move in a dissenting statement. She pointed out that the standard was not backwards compatible with existing television sets or devices, and could result in “consumers could find their bills going up because they will be stuck paying for two signals—even though their current television set can only receive one.”
She also wrote that the standard should have undergone additional testing in larger markets.
Variety points out that public interest groups have also expressed concern about privacy, as the new standard includes targeted advertising.
Chairman Ajit Pai says that those who oppose the plan “attempt to block technological progress.” He said that naysayers “stoke false fears about having to buy new equipment to see your favorite show” and compared then to “a state legislature actually passed a mandate that motorists stop, disassemble their vehicle, and conceal the parts in bushes if the car frightened a passing horse.”
“Next Gen TV should enhance the free, over-the-air television service that many Americans rely on, and make it a stronger competitor to pay-TV services. That would be good for all Americans, and particularly for low-income television viewers,” Pai said.
Filed Under: Industry regulations