Friday, November 17, 2017
3.00pm / Fortune
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 on Thursday to
allow broadcasters to voluntarily use a new technology to improve picture
quality and allow better reception on mobile phones and give advertisers
dramatically more data about viewing habits.
The new standard, dubbed ATSC 3.0, would allow for more precise
geolocating of television signals, ultra-high definition picture quality and
more interactive programming.
Current televisions cannot carry the new signal and the FCC only
requires broadcasting both signals for five years after deploying the
“That means every one of us will need to replace our television sets or
buy new equipment,” said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “The FCC
calls this approach market driven. That’s right — because we will all be forced
into the market for new television sets or devices.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended the proposal, calling concerns about
buying new devices “hypothetical.” He added five years is “a long time. We’ll
have to see how the standard develops.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc last month called the new standard “the
Holy Grail” for the advertiser because it tells them who is watching and where.
Last month, Democratic U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell raised privacy
concerns about the data the new TVs could collect about viewers.
The standard uses precision broadcasting and targets emergency or
weather alerts on a street-by-street basis. The system could allow broadcasters
to wake up a receiver to broadcast emergency alerts. The alerts could include
maps, storm tracks and evacuation routes.
The new standard would also let broadcasters activate a TV set that is
turned off to send emergency alerts.
One issue is whether broadcasters will be able to pass on the costs of
advanced broadcast signals through higher retransmissions fees and demand
providers carry the signals.
The National Association of
Broadcasters, which represents Tegna, Comcast, CBS,
Twenty-First Century Fox, and others, petitioned
the FCC in April 2016 to approve the new standard. “This is game-changing
technology for broadcasting and our viewers,” the group said Thursday. Many companies have raised concerns about costs,
including AT&T and Verizon Communications.
Cable, satellite and other pay TV providers “would incur significant costs to
receive, transmit, and deliver ATSC 3.0 signals to subscribers, including
for network and subscriber equipment,” Verizon said Many nations are considering the new standard. South Korea adopted the
ATSC 3.0 standard in 2016.