FCC Issues Last-Minute PSIP Reprieve

Today, May 30, was the deadline for broadcasters to implement the ATSC PSIP standard so systems will provide accurate data about what’s on the air, even when that information changes on the fly.

But Thursday, the FCC clarified the rule to say that real-time updates to a broadcaster’s Event Information Table are permitted, but not required under the PSIP standard the FCC ordered back on Dec. 31. Broadcasters, led by NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television—as well as Harris Corp.—had called for an extension of the deadline or a clarification that the standard does not require the EITs to update on the fly as programming changes.

NAB, MSTV and Harris said equipment for real-time EIT updates is not yet available.

But with no word from the FCC regarding an extension or clarification until yesterday, some broadcasters took no chances, asking the FCC for waivers of the deadline. One Washington law firm asked for waivers for 11 of its clients with television stations “out of an abundance of caution,” saying the stations do not have the equipment necessary for implementation of the standard.

Stations have worried for years about implementing PSIP, and for months about the deadline.

The FCC included the implementation requirement in its Dec. 31 order on the DTV transition. Jan. 4, TV Technology columnist Doug Lung warned readers of RF Report: “It won’t be easy!”

Feb. 29, NAB and MSTV requested a one-year extension, citing the lack of availability of needed products, and in repeated meetings and filings asked the FCC for the extension or clarification, saying that the ATSC PSIP standard did not require the real-time updates.

The FCC has made something of a habit of issuing last minute extensions of impossible deadlines, notably in its series of extensions of the deadline for the transition of Broadcast Auxiliary Services in the 2 GHz spectrum.