Shapiro: Politics Should Not Derail ATSC 3.0

The Consumer Technology Association spoke out Wednesday against what CTA president Gary Shapiro signaled was politicizing a straightforward technological win-win-win for broadcasters, consumer electronics companies, and the public.

The FCC's Nov. 16 vote on a framework for the new ATSC 3.0 next gen broadcast TV transmission standard has gotten embroiled in the politics of the Sinclair-Tribune merger proposal. Sinclair has been one of the biggest backers on the standard and owns a broadcast tech company and a handful of ATSC 3.0-related patents.

Hill Democrats this week called for the chairman to recuse himself from the ATSC 3.0 vote while they try to convince the FCC Inspector General to investigate whether the ATSC 3.0 or media ownership rule changes also on the Nov. 16 docket were ways to put the FCC's thumb on the scale in favor of Sinclair. They also want to know if the White House had its thumb on the same scale.

Shapiro made it clear in a statement late Wednesday (Nov. 15) that he thought it was time for the politics to give way to marketplace reality.

"Chairman Pai and the commission have been thorough in their development of the Next Gen TV order," he said. "Next Gen TV delivers overwhelming consumer benefit and does not hurt any existing products. Everyone has had a chance to weigh in on the order, there is scant opposition and this should not be embroiled in politics and media ownership issues. The commissioners have had the opportunity to hear the views of a variety of stakeholders and frankly, I am surprised at the non-technical and political objections raised."

Those have been raised within the FCC as well, with Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said last week the FCC should go back to the drawing board on the ATSC 3.0 framework and including Sinclair as one of the reasons. "Before we authorize billions for patent holders and saddle consumers with the bills, we better understand how these rights holders [Sinclair] will not take advantage of the special status conferred upon them by the FCC," She said.

 Shapiro sees it quite differently. "ATSC 3.0 will deliver advanced emergency warnings and market-driven flexibility, so consumers can be safer and enjoy the highest-quality, most innovative over-the-air TV experience ever," he said.

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.