By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
This week, the approval of the Office of Management and Budget of FCC rules imposing new paperwork burdens relating to simulcasting of a TV station’s primary signal on a host station when it converts to the new ATSC 3.0 next generation TV transmission system was announced in the Federal Register. The primary rules for ATSC 3.0 were adopted last year, and became effective in March 2018 (see our post here). But the rules requiring an FCC application before commencing the simulcast of the primary signal on the host station as well as over the new ATSC 3.0 signal, the notifications necessary to TV viewers and MVPDs, and other filing obligations required OMB approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act before they could become effective, and that approval has now been obtained. But this does not mean that Next Gen TV stations will be popping up everywhere immediately.
The FCC this week issued a Public Notice announcing the approval of these paperwork requirements, but indicating that it is not yet accepting applications for stations proposing to operate with the ATSC 3.0 standard. The FCC is still preparing a new form for ATSC 3.0 stations to file, and getting its LMS filing system ready to accept all of the newly required FCC filings associated with the conversion. A subsequent public notice will be released when the FCC is ready to accept ATSC 3.0 applications – at some undetermined time in the future, likely at some point in 2019. The Public Notice does offer the option for stations ready to operate with the new system to request experimental authority to do so (several such requests have been filed and granted for tests by commercial and noncommercial stations). But, until the new forms are ready, and until more ATSC 3.0-capable receivers are available to consumers, a mass conversion of stations to the new transmission standard will have to wait.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
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