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FCC Approves New Broadcast TV Standards

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission endorsed next generation TV broadcast specs. By a 3-2 vote, the FCC agreed to support ATSC 3.0, which some supporters say will enable radical innovation in video entertainment. The two Democrat commissioners dissented, citing concerns raised by activists over privacy and cost.



The new standards have already been endorsed by the National Association of Broadcasters. Most broadcast networks and station owners also support them.

The new specs have already been tested in markets all over the country. They are expected to make more bandwidth available for video. This is turn is expected to enable 4K video, better audio, and interactive functions.

Under ATSC 3.0, it may be easier for new networks to compete with ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. Channels reserved strictly for emergencies may emerge. The new standards may even help broadcast networks compete against pay TV and internet streaming video.

Friction Within the FCC

Ajit Pai, the commission’s chairman, said, “This is precisely the kind of technical innovation the FCC should champion.” Citing strong support by public TV outlets, Pai said the effort will bring “a wide range of benefits”.

Not everyone agreed. Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat commissioner, offered a blistering dissent. In it, she said the new specs “offer no benefit to consumers”. She said ATSC 3.0 will be “a tax on every household with a TV”, given the expense of new equipment. The changes, she said, were the result of intense lobbying by corporate special interests- nothing more. She summed up her statement with, “We don’t have a Congressional mandate; we have unelected FCC officials.”

Critics say consumers will need to buy new TV sets compatible with the new standard.

Pai argued that a five-year transition period will make it easier for consumers to adapt. “Current viewers with current TVs will be unaffected”, he said.

During the transition period, broadcasters will transmit video in both ATSC 3.0 and the current ATSC 1.0 format.


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