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Global Bodies Stand Behind OTA TV

TORONTO, CANADA—A collection of international broadcasting organizations are hailing a recent decision by the governing body of global spectrum treaties, which voted to preserve UHF spectrum for over-the-air television distribution. Members of the World Broadcast Union welcomed the vote held at last month’s World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, which reserved 470-694 MHz (U.S. Chs. 14-51) for broadcasting. (See “ITU Affirms UHF for Broadcasting.”)

“The decision for a global No Change in the 470-694/698MHz band... ensures a harmonized use of the band for terrestrial broadcasting and creates favorable conditions for the continuous development of digital terrestrial television,” the WBU said in a statement.

The WBU noted that the vote gives European broadcasters the confidence to invest in “releasing the 700 MHz band and repacking the lower UHF band in order to accommodate the existing TV services. Furthermore, this will facilitate the transition to new technologies like DVB-T2 and the introduction of a wider range of high-definition programs and innovative services like interactive hybrid broadcast-broadband services.“

Further, it said that in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle-East and Asia, broadcasters will be able to invest in the rollout of digital over-the-air TV and complete their digital transitions.

“Common action concerted between all broadcasting unions at WRC was aimed to preserve the fundamental interests and universal values of the public and national broadcasters based on what make the distinctiveness of the public service: accessibility, inclusion, respect and tolerance” said Tewfik Khelladi, president of the AUB at the opening of that union’s General Assembly. “What we have achieved together at WRC will allow us to protect broadcasting services until at least 2023, making it finally possible to deploy the DTT services all around Africa within these coming years.”

Regarding North America, the WBU said “the decision to maintain the globally harmonized primary allocation to broadcasting only, broadcasters can return their focus to the unprecedented incentive auction proceeding, currently scheduled to begin in the spring of 2016. At this point in time, no one knows if the incentive auction will fail or succeed in repurposing spectrum for mobile services. Either way, the result will be driven by economics, not by speculation. With the successful outcome of WRC-15, broadcasters now have confidence to continue to invest in their future by developing, implementing, and transitioning to advanced DTT technologies.”

“Broadcasters’ cooperation and coordination before and during WRC-15 was essential for securing continued access to the UHF spectrum for over-the-air TV,” the WBU said. “They have successfully demonstrated the universal importance of terrestrial broadcasting and supported the national administrations throughout the WRC-15 negotiations.”

“With the regulatory certainty in the use of the UHF spectrum resulting from this WRC-15, the continuing cooperation will enable broadcasters from all over the world to share their knowledge and best practices to establish and further develop DTT as an essential broadcasting platform for the foreseeable future.”

WBU member, the International Association of Broadcasting, said the vote was a “remarkable acknowledgment to broadcasting for its transcendental role as an instrument for freedom of expression and information, social cohesion, dissemination of culture, entertainment and for its contribution to distribute information in case of natural emergencies.”

Michael McEwen, director general of the North American Broadcasters Association said, “Despite some pre - emptive efforts from the wireless industry to spin the facts, only a handful of countries actually support reallocation. In contrast, and despite relentless pressure from the wireless industry to reallocate ever - increasing amount s of spectrum for paid services, a much larger group of nations is opposed to such reallocation. This is in recognition of the import ance of over-the-air television, including its spectrum efficiency, its prospects of continued technological advancement, and its delivery of new services.”

The Arab States Broadcasting Union and the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union also released statements of support for the World Radiotelecommunications Conference, an ad hoc body of the International Telecommunications Union.

Also see Radio World’s Q&A: Robert Weller at WRC-15.