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Editorial: Approve the Petition

The FCC should approve broadcasters’ petition to launch the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard. Broadcasters are not asking the FCC to mandate a rollout; they are not asking to flash cut to a new incompatible transmission standard. They will simulcast during the tech transition, and they are not asking for the FCC to pay for more expensive equipment during the post-auction repack.

What they are really asking for is a chance to innovate and remain competitive.

The FCC is bending over backwards to allow over-the-top providers to be more competitive, proposing to step into programmer contracts to disallow anything that would anticompetitively impede access to over-the-top and proposing to remake the multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) set-top market to allow OTT start-ups to get shelf space beside traditional players.

Meanwhile the FCC has refused to loosen media ownership rules, including those that former FCC chairs, Democrats and Republicans, agree are outmoded and unwarranted save for pleasing politicians on the Hill.

How about a little more love for over-the-air?

The FCC will move broadcasters into smaller spectrum quarters after the auction. Why not at the same time let them roll out a new, interactive standard that will allow them to do more with the spectrum they have left, including datacasting that could prove a boon to emergency alerts? FCC commissioner Ajit Pai had it right last week in calling for FCC action on the petition by the end of the year, and final rules by mid-2017, by which time the spectrum auction should theoretically be over and the repack begun.

“Let’s allow broadcasters who wish to move forward with ATSC 3.0 pursue this pro-consumer, pro-public safety path as quickly as possible,” he said in a speech to the Kansas Association of Broadcasters convention.

We agree.