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Pai Gives Updates on ATSC 3.0, Repack and FM Interference

Pai spoke before the AFCCE and addressed some of the broadcast industry’s hot tech topics.

A series of new rules and proposals are in the pipeline from the FCC in regards to the areas of ATSC 3.0 and interference issues regarding FM translators according to comments from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Pai spoke on these topics to the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers last Friday, as well as providing an update on the TV spectrum repack.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers President John Lyons. (Photo by Stephen Pumple)

Broadcasters were first allowed to use ATSC 3.0 as of November 2017. The FCC issued rules for the next gen standard officially took effect in July 2018, though IT work is still in progress for designing a new form in the Licensing and Management System, according to Pai. He believes the database changes will be completed in the second quarter of 2019.

In addition, the FCC’s Media Bureau is drafting a new order in the ATSC 3.0 proceedings to address issues like how to handle local simulcasting requirements if a station doesn’t have a viable simulcasting partner and another order to resolve certain issues raised in petitions for reconsideration.

When it comes to the TV repack currently underway, Pai emphasized progress made since the close of the incentive auction. He highlighted that 143 stations had made their transition to new spectrum during Phase One, which concluded on Nov. 30, 2018, putting them “ahead of schedule.” Now in Phase Two, Pai said that 20 stations of an expected 115 have already moved. With a deadline of April 12, Pai noted that tower crews, broadcast stations and engineers are looking at a busy two months.

Pai also spoke about the funds designated to assist stations as they move during the repack. In a blog post earlier this week, Pai mentioned that the $1 billion awarded by Congress in addition to the $1.75 billion previously set aside for the repack gives the FCC “the resources to help stations do the job.” He said that $350 million in reimbursements had already been approved.

On the radio front, Pai noted that as more AM stations have obtained FM translators, complaints from primary FMs about interference have increased. An NPRM was launched last May to address these concerns; it proposed allowing translators to change to any available channel to avoid interference. Having taken industry feedback, Media Bureau is drafting a new order, for which Pai said the FCC expects to take “action this spring to make translator interference resolution a faster and less contentious process.”

Pai closed his speech by bringing up the 1980s U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey team, which celebrated the 39th anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” Friday. Alluding to how the team had to keep their focus after beating the Soviets to go on and beat Finland for the gold medal, Pai encouraged the crowd “to keep our eyes on the prize and keep working together to seize these opportunities for the American people.”

For all the latest news and insight on the repack and ATSC 3.0, visit our silos for the two, repack and ATSC3.

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