FCC to Make Technical Clarification on DTV Rules

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says the commission plans on making a technical correction to its DTV conversion rules that will make broadcasters happy.

He has scheduled a vote for June 12 to clarify that broadcasters do not have to provide real-time updates to the producers of electronic program guides when their shows run over their allotted time. The Association For Maximum Service Television had asked for the clarification, pointing out that it was not clear whether or not it was mandatory.

FCC's new rules and policies for delivering program information using the new digital program and system information protocol (PSIP) kick in May 29, so broadcasters were looking for some clarity that they did not have to provide that real-time info.

MSTV, along with the National Association of Broadcasters, had pointed out that the technology to provide real-time updates on program overruns was not yet available and probably wouldn't be "for several years," which would have made complying with the requirement, had it been a requirement, problematic to say the least.

"We are clarifying basically that we weren't meaning that they had to have that [information], but it is something that is important as we move to those rules going into place." MSTV President David Donovan called the correction helpful.

The clarification has not been adopted yet, but the chairman was going to submit the "narrow" clarification to the other commissioners, which means it could well be approved before both the June meeting and the May 29 date. An FCC spokesman was checking into whether broadcasters would technically be in violation after May 29 if the rules had not been voted on by then. But so long as they are approved eventually, since the end result is that they were never mandatory, noncompliance would not appear to be a problem.

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.