Indy programmers worried ATSC 3.0 will force them off MVPDs

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A group of independent programmers is backing the American Cable Association’s concerns about capacity and channel space after the transition to the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard.

A group of independent programmers is backing the American Cable Association’s concerns about capacity and channel space after the transition to the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard.

In a letter to the FCC, smaller programmers including One America News Network, Aspire Channel, Outdoor Channel, Up Entertainment, INSP and Cinemoi, echoed the ACA’s ATSC 3.0 complaints laid out in a recent ex parte filing.

“We believe our respective programming services can compete with any in the market on the merits. Yet we also recognize that, as programmers unaffiliated with the largest conglomerates, our offerings will be at particular risk should the transition to ATSC 3.0 compel MVPDs to eliminate cable channels. As explained by ACA, ‘independent programmers would likely be the first to go’ in systems where capacity is limited. Such an outcome should concern anyone interested in preserving the diversity of media voices available to the viewing public,” the programmers wrote.

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Among the chief concerns of the programmers and the ACA is the potential that MVPDs will be required to carry both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 signals for an indeterminate period of time, causing providers to set aside “significant” amounts of extra capacity.

Those ATSC 3.0 signals, the programmers say, will likely take up much more capacity than ATSC 1.0 signals. In order to accommodate both signals, providers may have to drop existing cable networks or skip bringing on new ones. According to the ACA, a cable provider would have to drop six HD channels to make room ATSC 3.0 broadcast signals from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

“We urge the Commission to examine capacity issues closely as it considers rules governing the proposed ATSC 3.0 transition,” the programmers wrote, adding that the FCC should examine ATSC 3.0’s potential impact on diverse and independent programmers and look into protections to prevent broadcasters from coercing MVPDs into allocating extra capacity for ATSC 3.0 signals.

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Public comments from ACA and smaller programmers are coming in after the FCC, after a lengthy delay, initiated an NPRM for ATSC 3.0. The FCC touted the technological advances possible with ATSC 3.0 while also laying out the potential issues it wanted to address during the public commenting period.

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.”

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