Pai: FCC Working on New ATSC 3.0 Orders

FCC chair Ajit Pai signaled Friday that the FCC is preparing to start accepting next-gen TV (ATSC 3.0) license applications and that the Media Bureau is even now working on an order to wrap up some open issues, including the local simulcasting requirement for stations without a viable partner, and a second order to resolve various petitions for reconsideration (filed by cable operators).

Pai said that some IT work remained on the new licensing form, but that the requisite tweaks to the license management database should be done by the second quarter of the year.

ATSC 3.0 is the new TV transmission standard that will be delivering higher-definition pictures as well as provide for interactivity, targeted advertising, and other next-gen features.

The chairman let that high-tech cat out of the bag in a speech Friday to the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers.

NCTA-The Television & Internet Association, the American Cable Association and the American TV Alliance all had issues with the FCC's initial order laying out the framework for the ATSC 3.0 rollout, including what cable ops saw as a vague simulcast requirement.

The National Association of Broadcasters wanted a flexible standard for waivers of the FCC's requirement that TV stations' current ATSC 1.0 transmission and next gen ATSC 3.0 signal be simulcast.

The cable groups also petitioned the FCC to reconsider:

  • The decision not to require separate negotiations for first-time multichannel video programming distributor carriage of ATSC 3.0 signals.
  • The decision to permit low power and translator stations to flash-cut to ATSC 3.0.
  • The decision to permit broadcasters to degrade their signals without warning viewers and MVPDs beforehand.

There are already some ATSC 3.0 stations on the air, but those are test beds in five markets: Chicago; Dallas; Phoenix; Lansing, Mich.; and Santa Barbara, Calif.

Pai said that when he had visited the test in Phoenix back in August, he "experienced a full-on interactive experience that would have been unimaginable back when this speaker was a child holding the rabbit ears just to enable the Pai family to get better reception of The Jeffersons on broadcast TV," adding in reference to the game-changing potential of the standard: "Movin’ on up, indeed."

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.