Skip to main content

NAB to FCC: Don't Be Pushed Into Micromanaging ATSC 3.0

The National Association of Broadcasters has told the FCC not to heed the calls of MVPDs and others to look into retransmission consent, capacity or content issues in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow TV stations to roll out the new ATSC 3.0 transmission standard.

In a meeting with commissioners' aides this week, NAB executives said the FCC's goal should be to let broadcasters start innovating, not micromanage how they do it.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has long pushed for an FCC decision on the ATSC 3.0 rollout—broadcasters sought permission last April—preferably letting those broadcasters start rolling it out on a voluntary basis. Now that he is the chairman, he has slated a vote Feb. 23 on allowing just that.

"We urge the Commission to reject requests to impose additional regulatory burdens or mandates during this transition," they told the FCC staffers, according to an ex parte filing.

Those burdens would include the FCC launching an inquiry into what content stations could simulcast and in what format—standard or high-definition, for example, and capacity issues related to the new format.

NAB argues that would just be an effort to limit how broadcasters can use the Next Gen standard, which they argue can make them more competitive with pay and OTT services.

"None of these inquiries are necessary for a voluntary transition that does not require MVPDs to carry programming transmitted using the Next Gen standard," NAB said.

The FCC is not requiring that ATSC 3.0 MVPD carriage, and NAB and the other ATSC 3.0 petitioners—noncoms, consumer electronics companies and enhanced emergency alert backers—have not asked for that carriage.

But smaller cable operators told the FCC they felt they would be pressured to do so. And then there are the capacity issues once the new standard replaces the old and must-carry does apply. Those operators—led by the American Cable Association—say the new standard will likely take up more bandwidth and force independent programmers—the ones that are not bundled into larger deals and thus can't be dropped—off their systems.

NAB was having none of it. "Verizon and AT&T ask the Commission to expand its draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by launching an inquiry into what content stations should be 'permitted' to transmit and in what format, limitations in how broadcasters make use of the flexibility Next Gen TV permits and the ability to tailor the services broadcasters offer to their viewers and capacity issues associated with carriage of programming delivered using Next Gen. Further, seeking to impose arbitrary new content or format restrictions on broadcasters will only hamper their ability to manage the Next Gen transition and delay the deployment of innovative new services and features to the viewing public."

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.