FCC’s Pai launches rulemaking process for ATSC 3.0 rollout

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After a lengthy wait for the FCC to initiate a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on ATSC 3.0, newly appointed Chairman Ajit Pai today got the ball rolling.

In response to petitions from broadcast and consumer electronics industry representatives, the FCC is moving forward with the rulemaking process for ATSC 3.0, the still-in-development broadcast TV standards that will enable Ultra High Definition (UHD) picture and immersive audio, more localized programming content, an advanced emergency alert system (EAS), better accessibility options and interactive services.

“With today’s action, we aim to facilitate private sector innovation and promote American leadership in the global broadcast industry,” the FCC wrote in today’s filing.

Among the issues and proposals scheduled for public comment in the proceeding are voluntary use of the standard and the requirement of local simulcasting so that broadcasters will continue to transmit ATSC 1.0-based services as well as new ATSC 3.0 services.

In addition, the FCC is proposing the MVPDs be required to continue carrying ATSC 1.0 signals but not ATSC 3.0 during the transition period. The FCC is also seeking comment on whether ATSC 3.0 will create any interference concerns for existing DTV operations.

The FCC is also proposing holding ATSC 3.0 stations to the same current public interest obligations for broadcasters and concluding that it is “unnecessary at this time to adopt an ATSC 3.0 tuner mandate for new television receivers.”

RELATED: Sinclair CEO Ripley: ATSC 3.0 is going to ‘supercharge’ the broadcast business

While finalization for the standards may not happen until the end of the year, the broadcast industry is applauding the FCC taking necessary steps toward full authorization for ATSC 3.0.

"NAB strongly supports the FCC moving ahead on two proceedings of significant importance to broadcasters—a rulemaking on Next Gen Television and an AM revitalization order. Both items will foster technological innovation, increase opportunities for minority and female owners, and create new and unique services for consumers,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the NAB, in a statement. "Chairman Pai deserves credit for departing from the past practice of both Republican and Democratic-controlled Commissions, and publicly releasing the proposals early to inject greater transparency in the FCC rulemaking process. We believe this action will provide greater clarity for stakeholders and greater trust from the public in dealing with the FCC going forward."

Likewise, Sinclair Broadcast subsidiary OneMedia cheered today’s development.

“We’re delighted that the Commission will be issuing the rulemaking notice soon with the significant commitment of Chairman Pai to move quickly to final rules. The benefit for viewers and broadcasters alike are as profound as any developed in the past 90 years. The timing to implement the new standard in conjunction with the repack is a practical and strategic imperative,” the company said in a statement.