NAB Applauds FCC Move to Affirm ATSC 1.0 Sunset Date


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Late in the day on Friday, the FCC moved forward with the release of a 65-page “Third Report and Order and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” that sees a public comment period commence some 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. It’s a significant matter for all U.S. broadcast TV stations, as the Commission has now said when required identical ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 can conclude.

The third R&O in the FCC’s Next-Generation Broadcast Television docket sees the Commission make changes to rules designed to preserve over-the-air television viewers’ access to the widest possible range of programming while also supporting television broadcasters’ transition to the next generation of broadcast television technology.

The changes are based on the records collected in response to two FNPRMs, pertaining to “Next Gen TV Multicast Licensing,” and “Sunsets,” respectively.

And, they focus on the 24/7 simulcasting of all programming on a ATSC 3.0 signal on a ATSC 1.0 signal.

The “substantially similar rule” for simulcast streams and the requirement to comply with the ATSC A/322 standard on primary 3.0 streams is in effect until at least July 17, 2027. 

In 2017, the date was set at July 17, 2023 — less than one month from today.

With more than four years to get the ATSC 3.0 train rolling at Acela speeds, it’s an action that the FCC believes will minimize viewer disruption, while the NAB says it is an important step to get the ATSC 3.0 transition fully realized. It applauded the Order from the FCC, with NAB President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt stating it “will enable broadcast television innovation.”

He continued, “Next Gen TV holds the potential to offer tremendous benefits for viewers. To unlock that potential, broadcasters are undergoing a complex and challenging transition. The steps the Commission has taken — to facilitate the hosting of multicast programming and provide an end date to a rule mandating identical ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 broadcasts — will help make that transition possible.”

Importantly, the FCC, in a win for the NAB, agreed that through the transition period multicast broadcast television channels will be separately authorized facilities, under an originating station’s license. This was important so that broadcast TV stations were not potentially running afoul of the FCC’s ownership caps.

Meanwhile, the accompanying Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (RAND FNPRM) sees the Commission seek to further its understanding of the current marketplace for ATSC 3.0 Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) and the ability of third parties to develop products that rely upon them. “We also seek comment on the impact on consumers if the Commission were to adopt, or not adopt, rules to require essential patent holders in 3.0 technology to commit to licensing them on reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms,” it said.