The FCC has released it’s NPRM for Voluntary ATSC 3.0

The FCC has released it’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for ATSC 3.0, or Next Gen.

As proposed, full power stations will have the option of transmitting ATSC 1.0 alone or a simulcast on an additional ATSC 3.0 transmission. The FCC  is suggesting that there are two ways to do this: either cooperate with other broadcasters and share channels with “simulcast hosts” (i.e., 1.0 on channel 32; 2.0 on channel 34, both simulcasting 32 & 34), or straight up have companion channels, if they fit in a market.

Must-carry will remain with the ATSC 1.0 transmission. There will be no tuner mandate, at least initially, leaving it up to market forces for integration.

Here’s a rundown of the FCC’s position regarding issues unique to LPTV (note: not necessarily Class A):

  • The FCC seeks comment on whether LPTV should have the right to flash cut, instead of a requirement to simulcast, as is with full powers.
  • The FCC seeks comment on participation by LPTV in ATSC 3.0 deployment plans to ensure that all broadcasters are afforded an opportunity to participate as Next Gen TV broadcasters or simulcast hosts.
  • The FCC seeks comment on whether LPTV stations may have difficulty finding simulcast partners in a market. For example, LPTV and Class A stations may find it difficult to host a full power originating station because they must operate at lower power levels and may not be able to adequately prevent loss of service of the full power originating station’s ATSC 1.0 simulcast signal.
  • The FCC seeks comment on what impact would the lack of simulcasting have on the viewing public, if they were to permit LPTV stations to flash-cut to ATSC 3.0.
  • The FCC seeks comment on what, if any, kind of community coverage requirement should be imposed for the simulcast ATSC 1.0 stream (since it’s an issue with full power stations). They also question if their current policy of 30-mile moves and contour overlap restrictions would suffice.

The FCC proposes to authorize the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard as an optional standard that can be used by television licensees on a voluntary basis while they continue to deliver current generation ATSC 1.0 service to their communities. The current NPRM does not suggest a switch-over date.

The Comment Due Date will be 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register, and the Reply Comment Due Date will be 90 days after date of publication in the Federal Register.

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