ATSC approves new metadata protocol

The compatibility and interoperability issues that plague current deployments of digital asset management systems could soon be a thing of the past. The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has elevated the “Programming Metadata Communication Protocol” (PMCP) to Candidate Standard, paving the way to full industry adoption.

The new PMCP specification will enable broadcasters and manufacturers to interconnect systems that process PSIP and other DTV metadata such as traffic, program management, listing service, automation, MPEG encoder and the PSIP generator.

The ATSC Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP) Standard, an essential element of the ATSC DTV system, provides a methodology for transporting digital television system information and electronic program guide data.

“Because PSIP and other DTV metadata is originated or processed by several separate systems and equipment, up to now there have been some difficulties in communicating the metadata to the PSIP generator,” said Graham Jones, chairman of the specialist group handling the standard. “Implementing PMCP will help ensure that transmitted PSIP information is complete and correct, with minimum manual intervention by the broadcaster.”

PMCP is based on XML (extensible markup language) message documents that are flexible, usable for various system architectures and capable of deployment in the near future, the ATSC said. XML is a W3C standard that allows structuring of information in a text document so that it is both human and machine-readable. The PMCP standard includes an XML scheme that specifies which elements are allowed in messages, their relationships, attributes and data types.

While targeted primarily at PSIP, the schema is extensible for other types of metadata and can be used for the carriage of private information within the current structure. The protocol is complementary to and references existing ATSC standards, and it supports the recently approved ISO standard V-ISAN for unique identification of program content. Future extensions are expected for PSIP metadata needed to support data broadcasting and for Enhanced VSB. A companion Guide to the Use of the PMCP Standard is also planned.

The Candidate Standard stage is a call for implementation and technical feedback. The PMCP Candidate Standard is available at

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