FCC Seeks Comment on ATSC 3.0 Petition

As promised, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has moved swiftly to seek comment on a proposal by broadcasters to deploy the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard while still simulcasting their DTV broadcasts in the current standard—the two are not compatible.

In a public notice, the FCC set an initial comment deadline of May 26 and a reply comment deadline of June 27.

On April 13, the National Association of Broadcasters, Consumer Technology Association (representing receiver manufacturers and other consumer tech companies), America's Public Television Stations (noncoms) and the AWARN Alliance (broadcasters and others advocating for advanced emergency alerts) filed the joint petition, which asked that they be able to roll out the new standard on a market-by-market basis.

The next-gen system would allow for interactivity, ultra high-definition, advanced emergency alerts (where AWARN comes in) more channels in the same bandwidth, mobile broadcast TV, and datacasting, all ways for broadcasters to remain competitive in a multi-platform world.

According to the petition, the FCC would approve the standard as an option for both broadcasters and receiver manufacturers and for permission to simulcast while the new standard is being deployed so service to viewers would not be interrupted.

Putting the item out for comment does not mean the FCC is going to approve it. But Wheeler pledged at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas this month that he would start collecting input on the proposal before the end of the month.

The FCC public notice specifically targeted the following petition asks for comment: (1) “approve the Next Generation TV transmission standard as a new, optional standard for television broadcasting;” (2) “approve certain rule changes to permit local simulcasting to enable Next Generation TV to be deployed while ensuring that broadcasts in the current DTV standard remain available to viewers;” and (3) “specify that Next Generation TV transmission is ‘television broadcasting’ in parity with the current DTV 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.