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FCC’s Pai: ‘Next Gen TV standard a priority’

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has declared that teeing up the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard is a priority, suggesting it has the potential to let broadcasters offer much better service in a variety of ways.

Addressing the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Pai noted that the convergence of Media, Entertainment, and Technology—the M.E.T. Effect—had created a new digital economy, and with it, new challenges, new sources of competition, and new opportunities for the broadcasting industry.

He said he remained fundamentally optimistic about the future of broadcasting. “For starters, there is abundant evidence that broadcasters are continuing to thrive in the Internet age. The overwhelming majority of the most watched shows are still on broadcast TV. And each week, 93 per cent of Americans over the age of 12 listen to the radio, which is about the same as a decade ago, and the decade before that, and the decade before that.”

He suggested the FCC’s role was to make sure that its rules keep up with the times. “The last thing broadcasting—or any industry for that matter—needs is outdated regulations standing in its way,” he stated. “And that’s particularly true in communications, where things change so quickly. That’s why I’ll work aggressively to modernise the FCC’s rules, cut unnecessary red tape, and give broadcasters more flexibility to serve their audiences. Broadcasting remains an indispensable part of America’s communications landscape. And under my Chairmanship, broadcasting won’t be seen as a speed bump,” he averred.

Putting these principles into practice, he noted that there was a lot of excitement surrounding ATSC 3.0, or Next Gen TV. “This new transmission standard is the first one to marry the advantages of broadcasting and the Internet. And it has the potential to let broadcasters offer much better service in a variety of ways. Improvement in picture quality with 4K transmissions; immersive audio; better accessibility options; the ability to provide advanced emergency alerts, more tailored to a viewer’s particular location. ATSC 3.0 makes all of these possible,” he suggested.

“That’s why I made it a priority to tee up the Next Gen TV standard. In my first full month as Chairman, the Commission voted unanimously to seek comment on a proposal to allow broadcasters to use the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard on a voluntary, market-driven basis,” he advised.

“My view is simple: As with any industry, the FCC should promote innovation in the broadcasting business—not stand in the way of progress. We should allow interested broadcasters to experiment with this next generation standard,” he declared.

“Regarding timeframe, the deadline for submitting input on our proposal is June 8. We’ll then review the record carefully. Our goal is to issue a final authorisation of the Next Gen TV standard by the end of the year. We’ll move quickly (by FCC standards, anyway) because I want the United States to lead the world in broadcasting, just as in the communications industry generally,” he added.

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