The Advanced Television Systems Committee, the technical organization that has guided the technical development of Digital Television in the United States, this week requested proposals for the development of handsets and a delivery system that would allow television broadcasters to deliver their content directly to mobile receivers. This proposal would remedy one of the shortcomings of the current television digital transmission system – that fact that it has been designed for in-home reception. Outlines of the proposal are due on June 21, with detailed technical specifications to be submitted on July 6. A copy of the full Request for Proposal can be found on the ATSC web site, here.

In 2000, while the current 8VSB standard was just beginning to be implemented in the United States, a number of television companies, spearheaded by Sinclair Broadcasting, suggested that the proposed system was not sufficiently robust for mobile applications and otherwise suffered from reception issues.  These groups suggested that a COFDM transmission system similar to that used in Europe be substituted for the US system.  At that time, it was concluded that the digital transition was already too far along to try to change systems, and that the principal use of digital television was for in-home viewing so that the mobile reception benefits, if they could in fact be offered by the COFDM system, did not justify the change in transmission systems.Continue Reading New Handsets Sought for Mobile Delivery of Digital Television

The Copyright Office last week released a wide-ranging Notice of Inquiry, asking many questions about the statutory licenses that allow cable and satellite companies to retransmit broadcast television signals without getting the specific approval of all the copyright holders who provide programming to the television stations. The notice was released so that the Copyright Office can prepare a report to Congress, due June of 2008, in which it will present its views as to whether the various statutory licenses still perform a necessary function, and whether any reforms of the current licenses are necessary. To complete its report, the Notice asks many questions about how these licenses currently work, whether the licenses function efficiently, and whether they should be retained, modified or abolished in favor of marketplace negotiations. The Notice even asks whether the existing statutory licenses should be expanded to take into account the different ways video programming is now delivered to the consumer, including various Internet and mobile delivery systems. Thus, virtually anyone involved in the video programming world may want to be part of this proceeding. Comments are due July 2 and reply comments are due September 13.

The cable and satellite statutory licenses were adopted by Congress to allow these multi-channel video systems to retransmit broadcast  signals. Without these licenses, the individual owners of copyrighted material – including syndicated,  network, sports, and music programming — would have to be consulted to secure necessary copyright approval before the television signal could be retransmitted. As the multi-channel video providers would, in many cases, not even know who held all these rights, they instead pay a statutory license which is collected, pooled, and then distributed to the various rights holders in proportions agreed to by those copyright holders or, in the absence of agreement, set by the Copyright Royalty Board.Continue Reading Copyright Office Begins Inquiry to Reexamine Cable and Satellite Statutory Licenses – and Asks if Statutory Licenses are Appropriate for Internet Video