Engineers: May 30 PSIP Compliance Costs $10,000 With No Benefit

For months, broadcasters have been wondering how they’ll meet a May 30 FCC deadline for deployment of PSIP systems that will provide accurate TV program information, even when that information changes on the fly. NAB, the Association for Maximum Service Television and Harris Corp. have all argued to the commission that the deadline should be extended.

With the deadline still looming, the Washington, D.C.-based engineering consultancy Cohen, Dippell and Everist sought clarification on the applicability of the requirement for small- and medium-market stations, both educational and commercial. Specifically, the firm asked the FCC in an April 9 meeting about additions to the ATSC PSIP standard regarding language bytes—a pair of formerly reserved bits in the AC-3 audio stream descriptor that have been redefined to allow broadcasters to specify which audio track (English or Spanish, for example) is to be considered primary.

“It is believed that updating legacy equipment to meet this new requirement will create a financial burden on small and medium market broadcasters in the range of $10,000 to $15,000,” the firm said in an FCC filing. “This new requirement represents a financial and technical burden for these stations to implement the equipment upgrade which will have no known immediate benefits.”

Separately, Triveni Digital, a top vendor of PSIP generation systems, said in an April filing to the FCC that it supported the extension requested by NAB, MSTV and Harris. Triveni also addressed a comment opposing the extension that claimed real-time updates to program information could be done manually.

“The requirement for real-time updates to Event Information Tables (EITs) poses a number of issues, which are only now able to be addressed by some systems,” Triveni Chief Technology Officer Richard Chernock wrote in the filing.

While last-minute updates can be made to PSIP manually via the PSIP generator user interface, this creates several problems, including the possibility of error, the effects of the change on later programming, and integration with automation.

“When a last-minute update occurs, the master control operator implements the change via the automation system,” Chernock wrote. “Until recently, few automation systems directly fed information to PSIP generators. While the communications protocols to carry this information exist (the standardized PMCP protocol plus other proprietary protocols), automation systems typically did not have enough PSIP related information to allow successful population/modification of PSIP events.”

Triveni said it has been working with a number of automation systems vendors on the problem and showed some such systems at the NAB Show.