FCC’s Final Ruling on Voluntary Broadcaster Adoption of “Next Generation” ATSC 3.0 Transmission Standard

February 2018 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its final rule for “next generation” broadcast television standards. In the Authorizing Permissive Use of the ``Next Generation'' Broadcast Television Standard Report & Order [GN Docket No. 16-142], the FCC allows television broadcasters to use the optional next-generation broadcast television standard, ATSC 3.0. In 2014, the Commission began rural broadband experiments with the intent of determining market interests, as well as developing and deploying new and more robust television transmission options for citizens. This new ruling will inform the competitive bidding practices for broadcasters, as well as the deployment of next-generation transmission standards. As a voluntary measure, broadcasters can forego the new standard and maintain use of the ATSC 1.0 transmission standard. 
With regards to accessibility, the ruling mandates that operators carry the signals of local commercial television stations. The FCC defines a local commercial television station as “any full power television broadcast station, other than a qualified noncommercial educational television station.” Many Americans rely upon these stations for important news and safety information. As part of the provision, broadcasters that use the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard are “expected to comply fully with all relevant Part 79 requirements, which include ensuring that new, nonexempt English language and Spanish language programming distributed on their channels is closed-captioned; that  closed captioning contained in all programming received from video programming providers is passed through; and that local emergency information is accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and to persons who are blind or have visual disabilities.” In addition, local TV stations and their affiliates are required to provide at least 50 hours of video-described programming. The R&O further requires that broadcasters must provide “reasonable access” to elected officials and provide “equal opportunities” for the public to ensure that these requirements are being met. These include improved accessibility options such as geo-targeting of emergency alerts, alerts tailored to the community level, as well as ensuring that citizens that utilize legacy systems (e.g., ATSC 1.0 only systems) will not lose access to their over-the-air broadcasting and alerting.
This ruling goes hand in hand with FCC efforts to transition from legacy systems to support more advanced content rich 911 and emergency messaging systems. The provisions of the R&O become effective on March 5, 2018. 
For more information and for the final ruling, please visit: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-02-02/html/2018-01473.htm
Source: FCC.


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