FCC Schedules Time to Drill Down on ATSC 3.0

Sets up late June window for ex parte discussions

The FCC has decided to block out some time at the end of the month to talk about the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard with stakeholders.

In a public notice, the FCC's Media Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology announced the window of opportunity for ex parte meetings (with interested outside parties) on the new standard "given the interest in this proceeding." That window will be Tuesday, June 27, through Friday, June 30, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on each day. But operators will be standing by, as it were, if there are "unavoidable conflicts. The FCC said parties can call Media Bureau staffers in that event to set up "alternate arrangements."

Broadcasters certainly have more than a rooting interest in the standard. Commercial and noncommercial TV stations and tech companies petitioned the FCC to allow them to roll out the IP-based, interactive standard on a voluntary basis, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai supported the move.

Related: FCC's Open Internet Docket Explodes

The FCC unanimously voted in February—with some reserva­tions by Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn—to support the rollout, provided that broadcasters continue to transmit content in the current ATSC standard. ATSC 3.0 is not compat­able with current TV sets.

On March 10, the commission’s decision, in summary form, was published in the Federal Register. That triggered the official comment-and-reply periods, which the FCC set at 60 and 90 days, respectively. Commenters had until May 9 to weigh in, with reply comments due June 8.

Related: FCC's Pai Hits the Road

There have already been many issues and questions raised in those comments, including how the FCC should treat simulcasts and carriage rights and potential interference and what it should mandate vs. flexibility in rollout out of the standard, which will allow for geo-targeting and 4K pictures, though it is incompatible with current sets.

In addition to broadcaster and tech companies, interested parties include cable operators who want to make sure there are not any new carriage mandates, for one thing.