Rosenworcel Criticizes NextGen TV Proposal

Says lack of backward compatibility amounts to a “tax on every household with a television” October 12, 2017

WASHINGTON—FCC Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel this week criticized the current proposal for voluntary adoption of the ATSC 3.0 standard (also referred to as “NextGen TV”), and thinks the commission should take more time to consider the ramifications.

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While citing the advantages of higher resolution, more interactivity and improved emergency alerting capabilities the NextGen TV standard offers, Rosenworcel warned that such a move will have a financial impact on consumers.

“I fear the agency is about to rush this standard to market without understanding the consequences for consumers,” the commissioner said in a speech before the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This new standard is not backwards-compatible with current television devices. In the near term, with the standard voluntary, the cost of implementing it will be added to consumer cable and satellite bills. In the longer term, it means everyone will need to buy a new television.”

Rosenworcel said that rather than be a “boon” for consumers, that if adopted as it stands, the standard would amount to “a tax on every household with a television,” and urged the commission “to go back to the drawing board and find a way to smooth the transition to this new standard in a way that better serves the public interest.”

Perhaps tied to the proposal, Rosenworcel also criticized the pending Sinclair-Tribune merger. Sinclair has been a strong proponent of the NextGen TV standard and cites the standard as one of the reasons for acquiring the station group, which would allow Sinclair to reach more than 70 percent of U.S. television households and give the standard the critical mass it would need for success.

However, Rosenworcel’s concerns about the merger aren’t tied to the NextGen TV standard, but rather what the concentration of station ownership would do to localism, diversity and competition.

“The bottom line is we are not going to remedy what ails our media with a rush of new consolidation,” she said. “We are not going to fix our inability to ferret fact from fiction by doubling down on a single company owning ever more of our public airwaves.” 

Editor's Note: The NAB released a statement from NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton:

“Unfortunately, Commissioner Rosenworcel misunderstands the goals and asks of broadcasters. We simply want to compete on equal footing with national wireless and pay TV providers who routinely upgrade services in the telecom ecosystem.

“NextGen TV will allow local TV stations—including our public TV brethren—the ability to offer ultra HDTV programming, emergency alerts that save lives, and live TV on mobile devices. This will be free and local programming innovation that the FCC routinely supports, and that tens of millions of consumers will enjoy.”

For a comprehensive list of TV Technology’s ATSC 3.0 coverage, see our ATSC3 silo.   

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