NAB to FCC: ATSC 3.0 Transition Is in Peril

(Image credit: ATSC)

The National Association of Broadcasters said that without some action by the FCC, including sunsetting the requirement to broadcast in both the current and next-generation transmission formats, that next-generation format — the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard — is “in peril,” and with it broadcasters’ future.

Earlier this week, Nexstar Media Group CEO Perry Sook and other top broadcast group executives met with Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel and other commissioners and staffers to make their case for that action. 

They said that a “stalled transition” — it has been seven years since broadcasters petitioned the FCC to allow the transition — represents an existential threat to free, over-the-air broadcasting.

Also: NAB Says ATSC 3.0 Will Reinvent Free TV

For one thing, NAB said, 4K, which ATSC 3.0 allows, is growing across other platforms and will soon be video table stakes. For another, they argue, they need a firm plan for phasing out the FCC requirement of the “wasteful dual transmission in both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0.”

ATSC 3.0 allows broadcasters to deliver ultra-HDTV, immersive audio, emergency alerts that could wake up “sleeping” devices, more localized content, targeted advertising, datacasting and more.

“As the transition continues to stretch out, broadcasters risk losing sports and other high-value content to pay-tv platforms that are permitted to employ more advanced technologies,” they told the FCC officials according to an ex parte document supplied by NAB.

NAB said it is committed to making sure viewers can still see free, over-the-air TV “before, during and after” the transition, there are converters that could help with that — the ATSC 3.0 standard is not backward compatible with ATSC 1.0.

NAB said the actions it wants are for the commissioners to demonstrate the FCC's commitment to ATSC 3.0 so tech companies will build the necessary sets and converters, without which the transition may be "stuck."

NAB also wants Rosenworcel to create an ATSC 3.0 task force to focus on key transition issues. “Having a person or group of people whose primary focus is on solving these complex and important issues would enable the transition to proceed as quickly as possible while protecting viewers,” NAB said.

Back in June, the FCC sought comment on how the transition was going. ■

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.