James O’Neal Sums Up ATSC Annual Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C. Television’s future was at the top of the list of priorities as the Advanced Television Systems Committee got down to business in its May 10 annual meeting here, Sen. Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, providing the morning’s keynote address.

“We are fast moving past the age of linear television only [and] into a new world that is on-demand, interactive, Internet-enabled and three-dimensional, with a public that has an insatiable need for more high quality content,” said Smith. “Finding a way for broadcasters to take part in that new world isn’t optional; it’s a necessity to stay competitive with other media in this complex and unpredictable digital world. I believe that the role of ATSC is pivotal for insuring the vibrant future for television broadcasting.” 

Smith’s thoughts on television’s future were just one element of the daylong event, which also included a report on next-generation broadcasting by PBS’s Jim Kutzner, an afternoon keynote speech by the NHK’s Dr. Keiichi Kubota, a summary of the status of 3DTV by Dolby’s Craig Todd, and a whimsical “cooking” presentation highlighting the potential of ATSC 2.0 DTV featuring “chef” Sam Matheny of Capitol Broadcasting.

In his report on 3DTV, Todd noted that there seemed to be a lack of interest among participants in setting standards for the new movement and cautioned that the standardization process might be halted if this apathy continued. 

Of particular interest to many was a panel discussion moderated by TV NewsCheck’s Harry Jessell and featuring PBS’s CTO, John McCoskey; David Lougee, president of Gannett Broadcasting; and Richard Duccy, chief strategy officer at BIA/Kelsey. Panelists entertained such hot topics as multicasting, news in HD, spectrum issues, ATSC 2.0 and 3D television broadcasting.

In addressing this last topic, Lougee was somewhat guarded in his views on any large scale rollout of 3D television broadcasting.

“We’ve had a lot of great broadcasters innovate and put a lot of great stuff out there that there was no market for because the consumer had no interest,” Lougee said. “3D? We’ll follow it carefully, and if the consumer shows a great demand I think the broadcasters will follow.”

Lougee also shared his views of the FCC’s TV broadcast spectrum reclamation plan. “This isn’t a national broadband plan; it’s a big city broadband plan,” said Lougee. “There’s not a shortage of spectrum in Bellingham, Wash. or for the wireless guys.

“[Broadcasters] absolutely agree there needs to be a national broadband plan. And we agree with the idea of voluntary incentive auctions, as long as the many broadcasters that serve this country well aren’t damaged. We haven’t seen that plan. The broadband plan has not been released. The devil is in the details. You can’t get 120 MHz out of New York City—no matter how many volunteers there are—and repack everybody in there and not fundamentally destroy the over-the-air television service that this country has come to rely on.”

The ATSC was established in 1983 by the EIA, IEEE, NAB, NCTA and SMPTE with the goal of developing, promoting and implementing voluntary technical standards for advanced television systems. The organization has more than 100 members who represent television broadcasting, consumer electronics, broadcast equipment manufacturing, motion picture, cable television, satellite and semiconductor industries.
-- James E. O’Neal, TV Technology

See . . .
May 9, 2011: “ATSC 2.0 ‘Could Include’ 3D Transmission
The ATSC said that work on the next DTV standard “continues and could include:”
- Advanced video codecs (such as MPEG-4)
- Non-real-time and file-based delivery
- Conditional access
- Digital rights management
- Advanced electronic service guides
- Audience measurement tools
- Personalization/targeted advertising
- Interactivity and Internet connectivity
- 3DTV transmission