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ACA: Broadcasters Aren't Walking the Talk on ATSC 3.0

While broadcasters were pushing back hard on Microsoft's request that the FCC reserve channels for unlicensed wireless, saying it threatened viewers' access to important broadcast service, the American Cable Association was hammering broadcasters for what it said was potential shortchanging of their own viewers.

In an ex parte filing with the FCC, ACA said broadcasters' proposal for transitioning to the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard also represents potential service losses. 

Broadcasters have said they have every reason, without mandates, to insure their viewers get a signal, including that they do not have a dual revenue stream and have to rely solely on the eyeballs-to-ads model, but ACA sees it differently. 

"In recent weeks, in two separate contexts, broadcasters have suggested that any Commission activity that reduces viewership of any television station in any respect would harm the American people," ACA told the commission, pointing to broadcasters' objections to the Microsoft white spaces proposal.

Given that, it said, "One might reasonably have assumed that broadcasters would show similar concern about potential service loss caused by their own actions."

But ACA says that is not the case, given broadcasters' pitch for a flexible approach to ATSC 3.0 that would not include coverage mandates. 

ACA points to broadcasters' request for a no simulcasting mandate or viewers outside of a station's contour if their simulcasts do not match up.

"Broadcasters like to claim that 'there is no substitute for broadcasters’ service to their local communities,'" said ACA. "To the extent this is true, the rules governing the ATSC 3.0 transition must reflect this claim and protect viewers from losing this irreplaceable service."

“Broadcasters have asked the FCC for permission to voluntarily upgrade their facilities, at their own expense, to improve their service and offer viewers a better experience," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "ACA continues to try to sidetrack this innovative proposal to stifle competition from local broadcast television.”