FCC to vote on advanced U.S. broadcast TV standards

Gary Shapiro

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is moving forward to advance a new broadcasting standard that would improve television picture quality, allow better access to programs via mobile phones and let broadcasters turn on a television set to send emergency alerts.Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission will vote Feb. 23 on whether to grant initial approval on a rule to allow broadcasters to use the new standard on a voluntary basis.”The FCC should enable innovation in the broadcasting business,” Pai said Thursday at FCC headquarters..The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents Tegna Inc, Scripps Networks Interactive Inc, Walt Disney Co, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc and others, along with the Consumer Technology Association and America’s Public Television Stations, petitioned the FCC in April to approve the new standard.The new standard, dubbed ATSC 3.0, uses precision broadcasting – targeting emergency or weather alerts on a street by street basis with precise geolocating of television signals. The system could allow broadcasters to “wake up” a receiver to broadcast emergency alert information.Pai said in a blog post Thursday that the new internet protocol-based system will “enable better audience measurement, which in turn will make for higher-quality advertising – ads relevant to you and that you actually might want to see.”A local TV station in the Washington, D.C. area, for example, could broadcast separate newscasts for Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. residents.In addition, viewers would have access to ultra-high definition picture quality and more interactive programming. The signals could allow for panoramic views of sports programs, with multiple views of an event, broadcasters said in the April petition. Users could pan, zoom or select different angles.The downside is the next generation signals will not work on existing televisions. Users will need to buy new sets or converter equipment to receive 3.0 service, and major carriers have stated that customers would likely encounter higher retransmission costs.