Dingell Has Privacy Concerns Over ATSC 3.0

Rep. Debbie Dingell has privacy concerns about the new ATSC 3.0 next gen broadcast transmission standard and has asked both the FCC and the National Association of Broadcasters for some answers, and more than just a 'yes' or 'no.'

That came in letters to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and NAB President Gordon Smith himself a former member of Congress.

Dingell wants some answers from both on what types of information broadcasters will be able to collect from consumers and how it will be handled and protected. She signaled her concerns in a House Communications Subcommittee FCC oversight hearing last month.

The standard will allow broadcasters to target advertising and employ other interactive applications, which means broadcasters will also now be under scrutiny, as MVPDs and edge providers have been, on how they protect information privacy.

Dingell is worried about the word "privacy" not being mentioned in the FCC draft order on the ATSC 3.0 rollout framework, which the FCC is planning to vote on next week at the Nov. 16 public meeting.

“Broadcasters and other stakeholders deserve credit in developing this new standard that will undoubtedly bring significant benefits to consumers including more localized safety warnings and improved picture quality,” Dingell wrote.

“However, ATSC 3.0 is also much more comprehensive than just improving picture quality and safety warnings. It is my understanding that the new standard also contemplates targeted advertisements that would be ‘relevant to you and what you actually might want to see.’ This raises questions about how advertisers and broadcasters will gather the demographic information from consumers which are necessary to do targeted advertisements, and what privacy protections will be in place for consumers."

Dingell is also concerned about the impact on consumers of the fact that the new standard is not backwards compatible, which means it will require new sets or converters to receive the signal. She wants to know how many TV sets will be made obsolete by the new standard.

The FCC is requiring TV stations to simulcast in the current standard during the transition, simulcasting which will continue for at least five years.

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.