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Broadcasters Seek License Changes to Avoid NextGen TV Delays

NAB, Pearl TV and Meredith met with the Media Bureau last week to make their case.

WASHINGTON—NAB, legal counsel for Pearl TV and the general counsel of Meredith met last week with staff of the FCC Media Bureau to discuss the transition to NextGen TV and recommend a change in what broadcasters submit to the agency as part of their ATSC 3.0 license applications to allay concerns over possible contractual indemnification issues.

At issue is possible regulatory uncertainty created when broadcasters seeking to maintain as much of their existing programming—including multicast streams—transmit multicast channels via a facility not identified on the 3.0 license of an originating station.

“…[T]he Commission might not retain enforcement authority over a station that originated programming if that station was transmitting additional multicast streams over a facility not reflected on the ATSC 3.0 license of the originating station,” wrote Patrick McFadden, NAB associate general counsel, in an Jan. 27 letter to the FCC notifying the agency of the Jan. 23 meeting.

“This could create complex contractual indemnification concerns that could complicate [NextGen TV] deployment,” the letter said.

Noncommercial educational broadcasters in particular could face “acute” challenges because many are restricted or prohibited for agreeing to indemnification, the letter said.

As a possible solution, the parties recommended broadcasters include an attachment to their 3.0 license application with information spelling out additional channels they plan to use to maintain programming during the transition and that the FCC note the additional channels on the face of a station’s 3.0 license.

Doing so will “preserve clear lines of Commission enforcement authority without requiring changes to the existing application forms,” the letter said.

Unlike the analog-to-DTV transition in which stations were temporarily granted a second channel to multicast in order to protect analog viewers while transitioning the public to digital service, the voluntary transition to 3.0 will be done with no additional channel assignment and rely on local lighthouse stations and channel-sharing agreements among broadcasters to maintain 1.0 service while rolling out NextGen TV.

The letter is available online.

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