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NAB Chief Urges Accord on ATSC 3.0

WASHINGTON— NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith told a roomful of the nation’s top broadcast engineers to cooperate on the next-generation transmission standard. The chief of the broadcast lobby spoke at the 2014 ATSC Broadcast Television Conference in Washington on Thursday.

“As the ATSC addresses the challenges and opportunities of next-generation technologies, this is a crucial time for stakeholders to work together to ensure that broadcast TV’s one-to-may architecture successfully extends to emerging platforms,” he said.

Smith’s remarks come just two days after Sinclair Broadcast Group announced the creation of a joint venture to build and demonstrate it’s proposed ATSC 3.0 technology, called “Next Generation Broadcast Platform.” Sinclair, in conjunction with Coherent Logix, is proposing an all-IP network topology leveraging LTE cellular over tall broadcast towers. The joint-venture, along with a new a political action committee, is intended to influence policy in support of its proposal and its business interests.

Smith urged a unified front.

“As efforts are underway to develop ATSC 3.0, we encourage the adoption of standards that would benefit all television broadcasters, supporting and strengthening their ability to provide the services that viewers rely on each day; to innovate to better serve their communities; and to compete in a mobile world,” he said.

Smith hit several notes in his speech to the engineers, invoking their top celebrities, including Thomas Edison and Philo Farnsworth and Bernard Lechner, an architect of HDTV who recently passed away. He talked about the value of local broadcast television during natural disasters and emergencies, as with the recent tornadoes that ripped through the Midwestern and Southern states.

“Broadcasters stayed on the air around the clock to communicate critical information to the public and were credited with saving lives,” he said.

He touched on the necessity of reception. TV manufacturers are now required by law to make sets that decode and display ATSC over-the-air signals. It has already been determined that ATSC 3.0 will not be backward-compatible with the current standard, so TV sets in existence today will not work with it. The ATSC and NAB will need both the Federal Communications Commission and the Consumer Electronics Association on board to get ATSC 3.0 decoder and tuner chipsets into new TVs.

“Broadcast television depends on mass market deployment. When consumers buy a TV at a retail store, they should be able to get all of the broadcast channels…and they should be able to receive broadcast service anywhere they are in the country,” Smith said.

He also stressed the importance of mobile broadcasting.

“In order for TV to succeed, we must continue to move quickly to increase the number of distribution channels and platforms for our valuable local content, and we must respond to the needs of an ever-more mobile audience,” he said.

He let fly at the FCC for remaining “myopically focused on broadband and delivering our spectrum to wireless companies…”

“The focus of the FCC shouldn’t be how can spectrum be taken away from broadcasters in order to bolster the wireless industry’s goal of developing an architecture with the reach and reliability of ours, but rather, how can we continue to expand broadcasting’s robust and efficient architecture to other platforms,” he said.

Smith urged all parties involved in developing ATSC 3.0 to adopt a standard “that would benefit all television broadcasters,” and work toward harmonization with other standards around the world.