Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute and Common Cause teamed up to call for strong public interest obligations on broadcasters as they transition to the next-gen ATSC 3.0 standard, including on any ancillary services the new transmission standard allows for.
In comments Friday (May 27), the trio said: "As broadcasters seek to upgrade their technology, so too should we upgrade the public interest obligations to which those broadcasters commit to the 21st century," they said.
Broadcasters may not agree with Public Knowledge's asks, but their ears should have been burning.
In explaining why it was important not to "upend" those statutory public interest obligations, the groups said it was because: "Local television broadcasters are a critical source of local news, serve the educational and information needs of children and offer an invaluable lifeline in times of crisis and natural disaster."
But it was not done. "Local broadcasters also play an important role in reaching diverse audiences and providing inclusive, freely accessible programming. And local broadcasters help advance the democratic process through a series of regulatory obligations..."
Given all that, they said, they feared authorizing the rollout of a new standard, as commercial and noncommercial broadcasters have requested, "may limit or preclude broadcasters from satisfying these and other obligations."
So, they want the FCC not to take any action--broadcasters want action ASAP--until it has examined how broadcasters will fulfill those obligations.
The FCC did weigh in on DTV public interest obligations before making the initial digital switch.
The groups said that if consumers get their TV over mobile devices rather than TV sets, broadcaster public interest obligations must still apply. They also want the FCC to attach public interest obligations on any ancillary services broadcasters provide, given that it will be over the free spectrum from the government.