Public broadcasters are backing their commercial counterparts' request that the FCC "clarify" or establish flexibility when it comes to multicast channels, both in ATSC 1.0 and using the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast transmission standard (branded NextGen TV).
In comments on a National Association of Broadcasters petition, Americas Public Television Stations and the Public Broadcasting Service (together "PTV") told the FCC that absent that clarification, or new rules, it will "hamper full PTV participation in Next Generation broadcasting and could prevent PTV stations from achieving all the public interest benefits of ATSC 3.0.... PTV stations should not have to “choose” between continuing to broadcast their existing multicast streams and participation in the key new deployments of NextGen broadcasting.
As they transition to ATSC 3.0, broadcasters want the FCC to clarify/modify the TV station license framework for simulcasting to extend to multicast streams. The FCC is allowing stations to partner on distribution arrangements so that broadcasters can continue to deliver a primary stream in ATSC 1.0 given that ATSC 3.0 is not backward compatible with current sets.
The National Association of Broadcasters, in a petition for declaratory rulemaking filed in November, wants the FCC to declare that various multi-station arrangements for hosting and originating multicast streams in ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 are OK. NAB is not asking the FCC to extend carriage rights to multicast streams, which are not subject to mandatory cable must-carry, but it does say the FCC should not subject the new arrangements to broadcast ownership rules.
The idea is that if an originating station wants to start broadcasting in ATSC 3.0 and strike a deal with another station in the market to host a 1.0 simulcast of its multicast channels as well as primary channel, it should be clear that it is the originating station that must assure the above compliance. NAB said this would also make it easier for noncommercial stations to strike deals in which they could be paid for carrying the signals of commercial stations. APTS and PBS definitely agree.
"These rule clarifications and amendments are particularly important for PTV stations, which have a statutory ban on broadcasting advertising," APTS and PBS told the commission.
NAB also wants the FCC to rule that a station moving to ATSC 3.0 can strike a deal with a hosting station to air its multicast streams in 1.0 regardless of whether the originating station delivers those multicast channels in 3.0. Noncoms agree.
"PTV respectfully urges the FCC to issue a Declaratory Ruling clarifying that its existing regulatory framework for the hosting of simulcast primary programming streams also applies to simulcast multicast streams," they told the FCC. "PTV also asks the Commission to promptly expand the application of these rules to cover the transmission of ATSC 1.0 multicast streams regardless of whether those streams are simulcast in ATSC 3.0. PTV stations want to be full participants in Next Gen deployments – not relegated to the sidelines due to their robust multicast streams."
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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.