Jeffery Krauss: ATSC 3.0 ‘Quality’ Raises Questions for Cable Operators

Jeffrey Krauss, president of Telecommunications and Technology Policy, in Rockville, Md., once again dives into the implications of ATSC 3.0 for cable operators.

In his latest CED magazine article,“Capital Currents: What is a ‘Good Quality’ ATSC 3.0 Television Signal?,” Krauss compares what is considered a good quality ATSC 1.0 signal with a good quality next-gen DTV standard signal.

Krauss points out that while determining what constitutes a good ATSC 1.0 signal is rather straightforward, the same cannot be said for ATSC 3.0.

Unlike with ATSC 1.0, the new standard is designed to give television stations what’s often metaphorically referred to as knobs to customize the type of signal that gets delivered over the air, allowing broadcasters with different business models to deliver signal strength, robustness and coverage that best suit what they are trying to accomplish.

For example, one broadcaster might choose to deliver 4K service for viewers to watch in their living rooms and forego the robustness that another station would deem appropriate for its business plan focused on mobile television service. Or, there may be a different mix of robustness, coverage and service altogether that’s appropriate for what a third broadcaster wishes to accomplish.

This new flexibility afforded broadcasters via ATSC 3.0 raises “a whole raft of new cable carriage questions, including what constitutes a ‘signal of good quality,’” Krauss writes.

The article offers much to think about.

One question I wish Krauss would have explored is what are the implications for cable carriage if a broadcaster delivers an ATSC 3.0 4K signal directly to a cable headend via fiber optic cable, for instance, but chooses to reserve its over-the-air signal in the market, which includes the headend, for delivery of multiple robust, but lower-res, mobile channels.

Will the cable operator, in this case, be more likely to pass the 4K signal to deliver the highest-possible quality signal to its subscribers or simply choose to pass the lower-res mobile signal on its cable system?

I don’t know, but I sure would like to find out, and I think it’s a safe bet broadcasters would like to know as well.

WDJT Launches New News Studio, Set

WDJT in Milwaukee has unveiled a new news studio and set.

WDJT in Milwaukee has unveiled a new news studio and set.

WDJT, the Weigel Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, has unveiled a new news studio featuring a high-tech weather center, multi-screen video wall and several standup and video presentation positions.

Designed by Pittsburgh-based Park Place Studio the new set integrates with the station’s newly remodeled newsroom.

“The versatility of the set gives us flexibility and focus in delivering news to our viewers each and every night,” said station news director Tracy Davis in a press release announcing the new set.

The station has posted a time-lapse video of the construction of its new news studio and set online.

IBC Echoes: Grass Valley’s Mike Cronk On IP, Live TV Production

As I mentioned right after IBC 2015 in my Playout blog, the annual gathering in Amsterdam was so large that over the coming weeks I would be exploring in greater detail developments that surfaced during the show.

This blog entry  is one such example. At IBC 2015, Grass Valley introduced GV Node, a real time, distributed routing and IP processing node with support for both IP and SDI workflows.

In this interview with Mike Cronk, SVP strategic marketing, at Grass Valley, I discuss IP and live television production, what’s driving uptake of IP in the television industry and how local broadcasters and networks are likely to tackle IP as the core of their routing and production infrastructures in the future

Michael Kronk, SVP, strategic marketing, Grass Valley.

Mike Cronk, SVP, strategic marketing, Grass Valley.

IP once again was a major theme at IBC. This year, there was a lot of progress regarding IP and live television production as well as many questions about competing approaches that have arisen. How do you see it?

There’s a lot happening in IP for live production today.

Many potential benefits flow from IP in live production — both for IP as a means of getting material from a remote location to a central location and for IP as an opportunity to deal with multi-format in a much more flexible way, be that HD or UHD or even streaming media formats.

Read On

Quick: Describe This

Quick. Describe this picture.

Quick. Verbally describe the critical details solely portrayed in this picture. Don’t dilly-dally. There’s another to describe with the next radar sweep. (Image: WSI.)

Television broadcasters putting text-to-speech solutions in place to comply with the FCC’s Nov. 30 CVAA deadline beware.

There’s another deadline looming, and complying with what’s required on Nov. 30, 2016, will make TV broadcasters pine for the good-old days of audible crawl compliance.

Two aspects of the FCC’s original rules regarding the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 — one covering text-to-speech recitation of school closings and bus schedule changes on an SAP channel, and the other, a requirement to provide SAP speech description of visual, non-textual emergency information — were temporarily tabled.

In granting the waivers, the FCC said the former would be addressed in its Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the latter would be postponed for 18 months from the original deadline, that is, until the end of November 2016.

In its petition seeking the waiver for the audible description of non-textual, visual emergency information, NAB pointed to the near impossibility of describing a weather graphic that changes constantly, such as a Doppler radar image.

The FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the 18-month waiver acknowledged no technical solutions existed at the time to solve the problem but expressed its confidence that the industry could develop a reliable automated solution by the time the waiver expires.

Besides, the MO&O says “…the record indicates that visual but non-textual emergency information is generally duplicative of emergency information contained in an accompanying on-screen crawl, which would be aurally transcribed on the secondary audio stream.”

That statement begs the question: If it’s duplicative of what’s in the emergency crawl, why must the television industry and its vendor partners go through this exercise?

The answer seems to be that the agency wants the automated technology that gets developed to identify “critical details conveyed solely by a map or other graphic display” and then include those in the aural description as well as “how to respond to the emergency.”

No problem. By the way, how’s Ray Kurzweil coming with that A.I. development?






Text-to-Speech Resources

With the deadline for broadcasters to implement the FCC’s audible crawl requirement fast approaching, the pressure is on to comply with the new rule.

The following resources are offered to make that task a little easier.

Text-to-speech articles:
Keep Calm and Broadcast On: A Guide for Television Stations on Airing Captions and Audible Crawls in an Emergency by Scott R. Flick and Jessica Nyman of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

FCC Grants Temporary Waiver of Audible Crawl Rule” by Jessica Nyman of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

CVAA Special Edition,” News From the Beltway, Digital Alert Systems.

Confusion, Questions on Text-to-Speech Rule,” by Phil Kurz, TVNewsCheck.

Text-to-speech systems
(Please note  I am not asserting  this is a complete list of vendors and systems. If I’ve missed any, please email me, and I will update the list.)

FCC Links



Maryland Public TV Adds Pair Of Comark Exciters

Maryland Public Television (MPT) has upgraded its existing digital TV transmitters at WMPB in Baltimore (D29) and WMPT in Annapolis (D42) with new EXACT‐ATSC Digital TV exciters from Comark, according to Hitachi Kokusai Electric Comark LLC.

WMPB uses an Ultimate solid state transmitter installed in 2001, and WMPT uses a DCX IOT transmitter installed in 1998.

Both stations replaced the existing main and standby exciters. EXACT‐ATSC exciters were developed as drop‐in replacements for existing Comark transmitters. They are also available as standalones to be used with transmitters manufactured by other companies, it said.

The EXACT‐ATSC exciter, a 1RU rack-mount platform, offers DualCast technology that makes it possible to upgrade from ATSC 1.0 to 3.0 with a firmware update.

To learn more, visit the company’s website.

Jeffrey Krauss: ATSC 3.0 For Cable Poses Challenges

Television broadcasters focused on ATSC 3.0 development and implementation — if, in fact, they actually should one day receive permission from the FCC to roll out the next-gen television system — may want to start giving some thought to the challenges the new digital television system will pose for cable operators.

Writing in CED Magazine, Jeffrey Krauss, president of Telecommunications and Technology Policy in Rockville, Md., lists quite a variety obstacles that will have to be overcome if and when ATSC 3.0 becomes a reality.

Among Krauss’ list of concerns are:

  • Emergency alerts
  • Close captions
  • Must carry and watermarks
  • Transitioning to an incompatible system without having access to a second channel

Take a few moments to check out the article. It’s well worth the time.

VII Evolution Tour To Hit Chicago

The VII Evolution Tour, a two-day immersive educational program for visual storytellers, including photojournalists, is coming to Chicago, Oct. 17 and 18, at AbelCine headquarters.

A mix of seminar, hands-on workshops and panel discussions, the tour features photojournalists from VII Photo Agency.

Some program highlights include:

  • Keynote: The future of photojournalism by Keith Jenkins, general manager, National Geographic Digital
  • The New Market: Still and Motion: A workshop on the rise of photographers in creating video essays and other mixed media presentations for media outlets with a focus on the opportunities available in mixed media, short-form video and narrative length films
  • Equipment Evolved: Photographer Tool Bag
  • Balancing Advocacy, Journalism and Funding
  • Navigating the Transition from Photography to Video: A workshop to make it easier for still photographers to transition to video and the options that must be considered.
  • Shooting on the Streets: A trip to the streets of Chicago to get hands on with composition, approaching subjects and finding unexpected angles
  • Survival: The Complete Travel Toolkit.

Pricing and registration information is available here.

Wheatstone Buys Audion Labs

Wheatstone announced on Monday that it has purchased Audion Labs, including the company’s VoxPro digital audio editor.

Audion’s VoxPro, a broadcast-specific voice editor, is used by radio studios to record and edit phone calls on the fly for on-air broadcast.

Wheatstone, which manufactures and sells audio mixing consoles and other audio technology to both television and radio stations, has developed WheatNet-IP, an end-to-end IP audio network.

Audion Labs will remain a separate brand entity, Wheatstone said. Its CTO, Rick Bidlack, will remain with Audion Labs and operate from his office in Seattle.

Financial terms of the sale were not made available.

ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer Achieves ‘Candidate Standard’ Status

The Advanced Television Systems Committee TG3 (Technology Group 3) has elevated the physical layer of the next-generation ATSC 3.0 television standard to Candidate Standard status.

The physical layer relates to the actual transmission component of the standards, including modulation, and will make it possible to begin field testing.

Mark Richer, ATSC president, called the vote “a major milestone” in a press release ATSC issued today.

At IBC 2015 earlier this month in Amsterdam, Rich Chernock, chief science officer of Triveni Digital and chair of TG3, said the physical layer is the portion of the standard needed by industry to begin seeking FCC rule changes to allow broadcasters to launch ATSC 3.0 service.

“The system will allow high-capacity, low-robustness modes and also lower-capacity, high-robustness modes in the same transmission,” said Richer in the release. “That flexibility means that we’re likely to see both 4K Ultra HD broadcasts running side-by-side with robust mobile broadcasts to handheld devices.”