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Broadcasters Ask FCC to Help Move NextGen TV Along

“A stalled transition is threatening the future of the broadcast industry altogether”

Logo for NextGen TV with black and blue letters and a concept figure suggesting transmission

Worried that the ATSC 3.0 transition isn’t moving fast enough, U.S. television broadcasters are pressing federal regulators to establish a task force on the standard, because “a stalled transition is threatening the future of the broadcast industry altogether.”

The National Association of Broadcasters told Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and other FCC officials this week that a NextGen TV task force could focus on making the transition as fast as possible “while ensuring viewers have access to free, local television signals at all stages of the shift.”

“NAB asked that the commission demonstrate support for the future of broadcasting, noting that the FCC has led the way on other innovative technologies,” according to a summary from the association. “This signals to the consumer electronics industry that building and marketing compatible devices should be a priority.”

Several broadcasters and NAB officials, including President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt, met Monday with Rosenworcel, two other commissioners, the head of the Media Bureau and other staff. “In these meetings, NAB and its members underscored the importance of the Next Generation Television standard to the continued vitality of our free, local and trusted service,” NAB wrote in an “ex parte” letter summarizing the discussions.

But they said that 4K video has grown to a commonly available capability “across nearly all other video platforms” while TV stations “cannot truly begin to offer this experience while transmitting in both standards.” As the transition takes longer, broadcasters could lose sports and other valuable content to pay-TV platforms.

“If broadcasters cannot keep this high-value content, it will greatly undermine their ability to serve their viewers and produce high-quality local content.”

Although more cities with NextGen TV signals are coming online, NAB wrote, there’s a need for a plan to end “the wasteful dual transmission in both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0.” While such a plan would raise many questions, it is important to get started, it argued.

The broadcasters asked that individual commissioners “use their platform to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to ATSC 3.0,” like they have with 5G and Wi-Fi. This in turn would help ensure that consumer electronics companies build the devices to access ATSC 3.0. “A lack of support will slow the pace of deployment and eventually we may be stuck.”

As for the task force, “Having a person or group of people whose primary focus is on solving these complex and important issues would enable the transition to proceed as quickly as possible while protecting viewers.”

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