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ATVA: HD TV Should be a Requirement for Broadcasters

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WASHINGTON—Broadcasters should be required to provide a single HD feed of their television service before offering new ancillary or supplementary services, like Broadcast Internet, the American Television Alliance (ATVA) told the FCC.

This stance was raised in ATVA’s comments on the FCC’s “Promoting Broadcast Internet Innovation Through ATSC 3.0,” during which it also brought up the suggestion that the FCC should update its fees for ancillary and supplementary services.

ATVA, which represents cable and satellite operators, states that in 1997 the FCC required broadcasters to transmit in standard definition (it declined to require HD) and that they could devote as much of their spectrum to ancillary and supplementary services as they wished, as long as television remained the primary offering of TV broadcasters—“We expect that the fundamental use of the 6 MHz DTV license will be for the provision of free over-the-air television service.”

As ATSC 3.0 becomes available for broadcasters, it is estimated that a TV station would need as little as 8% to transmit a single SD signal. But if 90% of a broadcaster’s spectrum is used for something other than transmitting a TV signal, it is no longer ancillary, per ATVA.

With customers now expecting higher resolution programming, ATVA believes the FCC should now require broadcasters to offer and simulcast a single HD programming stream, so as not to derogate the primary service with ancillary services.

Another point raised in ATVA’s comments is that the current ancillary and supplementary service fees of 5%—which hasn’t been changed in 18 years—be revisited. The associations suggests the commission analyze what an appropriate fee level would be at this time as not to confer “additional unwanted structural preferences on broadcasters.”

ATVA stresses that it welcomes new ancillary and supplementary broadcast services, but that it thinks the rules need to be updated to maintain TV as broadcasters’ primary service.

ATVA’s full comments are available through the FCC ECFS