October 26, 2017 / 5:58 PM / in 2 months

U.S. regulator to vote on next-generation TV standards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote next month to allow broadcasters to voluntarily use a new technology to improve picture quality and allow better reception on mobile phones, the agency said on Thursday.

The FCC in February granted initial approval for the advanced standard that would also let broadcasters use a TV set that is turned off to send emergency alerts, but would require TV owners to eventually buy new sets or converter boxes.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said on Thursday Net Generation TV would be “the first standard to marry the advantages of broadcasting and the Internet. It holds the promise of delivering better video and audio, advanced emergency alerts, improved accessibility features, personalized and interactive content.”

The proposal would require local simulcasting of current signals for at least five years for stations that choose to deploy Next Gen TV so existing TVs and tuners can still receive programming, a person briefed on the matter said.

The ATSC 3.0 standard offers much more precise geolocating of TV signals, ultra-high definition picture quality and more interactive programming. It was created by a nonprofit group represented by the broadcasting, consumer electronics, cable, computer and motion picture industries.

The standard uses precision broadcasting and targets emergency or weather alerts on a street-by-street basis. The system could allow broadcasters to wake up a receiver to broadcast emergency alerts.

The alerts could include maps, storm tracks and evacuation routes, companies have said.

At a House hearing on Wednesday, Democratic U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell raised privacy concerns about the data the new TVs could collect about viewers.

One issue is whether broadcasters will be able to pass on the costs of advanced broadcast signals through higher retransmissions fees and demand that providers carry the signals.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents Tegna Inc (TGNA.N), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), CBS Corp (CBS.N), Scripps Networks Interactive Inc, Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) and others, petitioned the FCC in April 2016 to approve the new standard.

    Many companies have raised concerns about costs, including AT&T Inc (T.N). Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) said last week the FCC should not require TV viewers “to pay for a new broadcast TV service they have not yet requested.”

    Cable, satellite and other pay TV providers “would incur significant costs to receive, transmit, and deliver ATSC 3.0 signals to subscribers, including for network and subscriber equipment,” Verizon said.

    Verizon also said because of the increased bandwidth requirements, TV providers would be forced “to reconfigure channel lineups and potentially drop some programming.”

    LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) said in a filing that the next generation standard is “the future of mass media communications – a future that is increasingly mobile, interactive and content-rich.”

    Many nations are considering the new standard. South Korea adopted the ATSC 3.0 standard in 2016.

    Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Meredith Mazzilli

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