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Public TV broadcasters ask FCC for more flexibility in NextGen TV deployments

Public TV broadcasters this week requested the FCC to present them extra flexibility in the case of providing their main HD sign and multicast (aka “diginets) channels during broadcasters’ transition to NextGen TV (aka ATSC 3.0).

In comments filed with the commission, America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) and the PBS were responding to the FCC’s current Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, (“Authorizing Permissive Use of the ‘Next Generation’ Broadcast Television Standard”). In its feedback, they mentioned they welcome the FCC’s proposed “mix and match” licensing flexibility for main and multicast streams to permit broadcasters the flexibility to share streams throughout a number of hosts to take care of service the place doable to viewers through the transition to ATSC 3.0.

“The ‘mix and match’ licensing flexibility is essential for public television stations to participate fully in NextGen TV deployments, while avoiding unnecessary viewer disruptions to public television noncommercial educational multicast streams,” they mentioned. “Without expeditious adoption of ‘mix and match’ multicasting flexibility, public television stations face the risk of being ‘left behind’ the rest of the broadcast industry on NextGen TV deployments with the end result that audiences could miss out on the very real public interest benefits that public television can bring to the NextGen marketplace.

The issue at stake involves how public TV broadcasters deploying NextGen TV—now available in approximately 45% of U.S. TV households—allocate bandwidth for their primary HD signal and SD multicast channels, on average, 2-3 channels dedicated to education and public affairs.

According to Lonna Thompson EVP, COO and General Counsel for America’s Public Television Stations, its member stations “are in 10 market transitions, with a PTV station, WKAR, in an eleventh market using an experimental license.

“Only eight of those markets are collaborations with commercial stations,” she added. “Because our stations use their spectrum so fully and offer so many program channels, the flexibility we are requesting is necessary for their successful involvement in market transitions.”

In its feedback, APTS and PBS mentioned that revising the multicast guidelines would permit PBS stations to totally interact within the alternatives afforded by NextGen TV.

“With several years’ worth of deployments now in place, the track record of public television inclusion in NextGen TV deployments clearly demonstrates that unless public television stations obtain additional flexibility with regard to 1.0 and 3.0 multicast streams, public television will be denied full participation in NextGen TV developments and consumers will be unable to access the public interest benefits of ATSC 3.0 that public television brings to the marketplace in its unique noncommercial educational role,” they instructed the FCC. “These NextGen TV multicasting rule refinements are especially important for public television participation in NextGen TV given public television stations’ commitment to robust multicast streams.”

The restrictions attributable to the shortage of flexibility in multicast guidelines usually are not simply “theoretical,” APTS and PBS instructed the FCC.

“In 2020, a public television station participating in the NextGen TV launch in its major market as an ATSC 1.0 ‘host’ had to forego plans to transmit its second HD stream in ATSC 3.0 due to FCC regulatory concerns about ‘splitting’ its streams between two 3.0 station ‘hosts’ and, correspondingly, the 3.0 host ‘splitting’ its streams between multiple 1.0 ‘hosts,’” they mentioned of their feedback.

“The end result was a loss to the community of the opportunity for public television content in 3.0 broadcasts in that market. Moreover, based on market launches to date, APTS and PBS are concerned that the inability to reliably accommodate public television station multicast streams on a flexible licensing basis is hampering the inclusion of public television stations in large group NextGen TV market launches.”

The APTS and PBS mentioned that they help the FCC’s revision of the principles set forth final November in response to a request by the NAB. In updating the principles, NextGen TV stations can be allowed to license a number of simulcast multicast streams on a number station or stations, whether or not that visitor stream is the three.0 broadcast or the 1.0 simulcast. In addition, NextGen TV stations that are broadcasting in 3.0 on their very own channels would be capable to license a number of multicast streams aired solely in 1.0 on a number station or stations even when they don’t seem to be simulcasting that stream in 3.0.

To allow the licensing of multicast streams on a number, the FCC additional proposed that every of the originating station’s multicast streams can be licensed as a short lived channel in the identical method as its main stream on the first host. In different phrases, every of the originating station’s visitor multicast streams aired on a number can be thought of to be an extra, individually approved channel below the originating station’s single, unified license.

In supporting the principles that may allow a 3.0 station to depend on two (or extra) separate 1.0 accomplice stations so as to reduce service loss from a 3.0 transition, APTS and PBS mentioned such a revision would improve public broadcasters’ mission of offering broadcast service to all U.S. residents, no matter the place they stay.

“This flexibility is particularly important given the way public television coverage developed—over the past 60 years—to reach as many people in rural, remote, and isolated parts of the United States as possible,” they said. “As a whole, PTV coverage was developed to maximize universal public television service to fulfill congressional policy goals of universal service.”

They additionally instructed the FCC that since their stations usually are not privately owned, issues over such points as retransmission consent and possession usually are not related in revising these guidelines for public broadcasters. Days Tech

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