Television engineers and technology executives from 13 broadcast organizations located around the world — including Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Japan and the U.S. — are setting aside their techno-political differences and working on a global strategy in an effort to define the requirements of future terrestrial broadcast systems.
At a Future of Broadcast TV (FoBTV) Summit in Shanghai, (at 11:11 a.m. local time on 11/11/11), more than 200 delegates officially expressed unified support for a joint declaration that calls for global cooperation to identify a variety of common content delivery standards and promote sharing of technologies to benefit both consumers and media organizations.
“Today, technological innovation may be able to break down many of the long-standing barriers that have prevented common systems,” the joint declaration states. “This would enable us to remove the gaps between the different television signal formats and transmission systems used around the world. Digitization has opened the door for a broadcasting renaissance.”
Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and co-chairman of the summit, accompanied John Godfrey, a vice president at Samsung and ATSC board chairman; Jim Kutzner, chief engineer of technology & operations for PBS and ATSC board member; and more than a dozen other ATSC members at the summit in China. Richer said that a worldwide broadcasting standard is critical to managing the ever-changing future of content delivery and consumption as well as next-generation consumer electronics product development.
“Increasingly, target DTV receiving devices are mobile and handheld, such as phones, laptops and tablets,” Richer said, adding that a global approach to the future of terrestrial TV broadcasting would help avoid competing standards, overlap and inefficient deployment of new services. “These devices should work everywhere, regardless of borders.”
He also cited the fact that the cost of manufacturing could be lowered when developing products for a global audience, and that the consumer electronics industry is “more likely to develop broadcast-enabled products” if they knew such products world work wherever customers take them.
A common theme throughout the summit was that broadcasting — the transmission of information to an unlimited number of listeners and viewers — is the most spectrum-efficient means for wireless delivery of popular real-time and file-based content. The signatories of the declaration said they believe that the broadcasting and TV industries will continue to evolve and play a critical role in bringing both information and entertainment to everyone.
“[The declaration of unity] is a clear commitment the organizations involved have to collaborate on the development and standardization of the next-generation DTV system,” Richer said. “All of the organizations involved realize the advantages of a global strategy.”
Those organizations that signed on include: the ATSC, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), Communications Research Center, Digital Video Broadcast Project (DVB), European Broadcast Union (EBU), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Globo TV Network, IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, National Association of Broadcasters, National Engineering Research Center of Digital TV of China, NHK Science and Technical Research Laboratories, Public Broadcasting Service and the Brazilian Society of Television Engineers.
At the FoBTV Summit, supporters of the declaration agreed to three major initiatives:
• Define the requirements of future terrestrial broadcast systems. “The collaboration between broadcast and Internet content will play a vital role in providing attractive services. The broadcast industry is committed to developing necessary technologies to create and deliver new media and information services by taking advantage of future broadcast systems. We also know the critical role played by broadcasting in times of emergency,” notes the declaration.
• Explore unified terrestrial broadcast standards. “We aim to promote cooperation among broadcasters, communications companies and manufacturers of broadcast equipment and all types of receiving devices. We seek to maximize proper and efficient use of spectrum resources, as well as exchanges and cooperation between communication systems and broadcasting on both a technological and business level,” it states.
• Promote global technology sharing. “A future broadcast ecosystem, with collaboration between different areas and among broadcasters, research institutes and industries, will foster new broadcast technological innovation. We commit to the elimination of broadcasting technological gaps. We realize that advances in broadcasting technologies should benefit both developed and developing countries.”
The document also declares: “We need to explore new ways of cooperation, seek the progressive unification of standards, and realize technology sharing so that the efficiency and convenience enabled by digitization will be realized — not reduced by system fragmentation. The 21st Century is an era of integration of broadcasting, Internet and communications, all of which have evolved in parallel. Consumers are calling for more convenient and user-friendly services. The development of digital technology opens the possibility of cooperation among all the different networks and transmission systems.”
“This is a long-term effort, but I expect industry reports and conferences on a regular basis,” the ATSC’s Richer said. “All of the signatory organizations and others understand the inherent benefits of a global technical strategy. Broadcast technology must continually advance to address the challenges of the changing business and regulatory environment.”
He said the work of the ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standard committee (Technology Group—TG3), established earlier this year, would help support the FoBTV effort. Backwards compatibility with existing systems is not necessarily a goal.
“Our ATSC 2.0 Standard will be backwards-compatible, but ATSC 3.0 and FoBTV will be a totally new system,” Richer said.
Asked what will broadcasters do with their legacy equipment, Richer said, “It’s too early to tell.”
The complete declaration is available at http://tinyurl.com/FoBTVdeclaration/.