Cable Ops to FCC: Rethink ATSC 3.0 Retrans Regime

FCC Building
(Image credit: FCC)

Cable operators want the FCC to reconsider whether broadcasters should be able to use carriage of their primary ATSC 1.0 TV station signal to leverage carriage of new ATSC 3.0 signals, as is the case under current FCC rules.

That came in a meeting between NCTA representatives and Media Bureau officials last week to talk about the National Association of Broadcasters petition related to ATSC 3.0 carriage.

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Back in 2017, MVPDs and others asked the FCC to carve out the new ATSC 3.0 signals from retrans negotiations, but the FCC decided not to do so.

In a petition for declaratory rulemaking filed in November 2020, NAB asked the FCC to declare that various multi-station arrangements for hosting and originating multicast streams in ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 are OK. The NAB has not asked the FCC to extend carriage rights to multicast streams, which are not subject to mandatory cable carriage. But the petition does say the FCC should exempt the new arrangements from broadcast-ownership rules, something to which pay TV distributors object.

In the meeting with FCC officials, according to a document filed with the commission, NCTA said that those multi-station arrangements "could exacerbate concerns regarding ATSC 3.0 carriage and costs and could place additional strain on cable capacity."

If the FCC decides to open a rulemaking on NAB's proposal to change its ATSC 3.0 channel-sharing rules, it should at least consider whether it should prohibit those broadcasters from using retrans to gain carriage of ATSC 3.0 signals.

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NCTA suggested that the FCC should not consider the FCC's petition in the larger context of other ATSC 3.0 rules that NCTA thinks may need revising, starting with that ATSC 3.0 leverage but including whether ATSC 3.0 patents should have to be licensed on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis. Sinclair, for example, has a handful of ATSC 3.0 patents as well as being a huge proponent of the standard.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.