In one of those weird little quandaries in the broadcast legal world, the FCC just asked for comments on a petition for declaratory ruling filed by the NAB seeking a clarification as to who is responsible for the content of simulcast streams provided to comply with the ATSC 3.0 conversion rules. Under those rules, for a station to convert to the new NextGen TV transmission system, it must leave behind a simulcast stream of its primary video channel – with that stream being broadcast on a subchannel of a station continuing to operate in the current digital television standard ( a “lighthouse” continuing to transmit the programming to viewers who have not acquired a NextGen TV set – see our articles here, here and here addressing other aspects of the lighthouse signal). In such agreements, there is often a reciprocal agreement that the station hosting the simulcast stream gets to provide its own programming on a simulcast stream of the station that is converting to ATSC 3.0. What has not been explicitly addressed by the FCC is the legal responsibility for the content and other public interest obligations that attach to those streams.
In the normal course, a licensee is responsible for all programming that runs on its station, including on its own subchannel programming streams. As part of the incentive auction and subsequent repacking of the television band, where the FCC blessed channel-sharing arrangements where two or more licensees share a single television channel, the FCC has made clear that there are two separate licensees and each licensee is responsible for their own programming, public file and other regulatory obligations (see our articles here and here on channel sharing). But in the ATSC 3.0 conversion, the question has not been squarely addressed even if the answer is implied, but clearly the NAB is correct that the answer should be made crystal clear.
Continue Reading In the Conversion to NextGen TV, Who is Responsible for the Content of the Simulcast Streams?