Television: The Next Generation

FCC Commissioners examine the first commercially-available RCA TV in 1939. The retail price would be $11,000 in today’s dollars.

Last Thursday may go down in the history books as another milestone in TV history – just like the December 1953 vote at the FCC that authorized black-and-white compatible color television or the Christmas Eve 1996 FCC action that blessed the first-generation of ATSC as America’s digital TV standard.  Over 20 years ago, few could have predicted the meteoric impact of the Internet on TV viewing habits, or how people would even sleep with their smartphones.  But as of November 16, 2017, broadcasters can use our 6Mhz channels to transmit in ATSC 3.0 – a new technology that leapfrogs TV into the Internet age.

ATSC 3.0 is really a suite of more than 20 different standards, allowing local broadcasters to vastly enhance picture and audio quality, personalize advertising, target emergency alerts, and enjoy some of the same audience measurement capabilities that have become commonplace on digital platforms.  After the Spectrum Repack is complete, future broadcasts from towers in Evansville, Terre Haute, Lafayette, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Indianapolis will reach more viewers in hard-to-reach locations – whether that’s deep inside buildings or on-the-move.  Our local stations will become even more responsive when tornadoes and floods strike the Hoosier state, or when an abducted child alert is issued. 

Next-generation television will come faster than the high-definition TV transition, with South Korea ramping up to transmit this winter’s Olympic Games to viewers in Ultra HDTV.  It’s been almost 80 years since commercial TV service was launched in America with flickering images from another big event – the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  But now television viewers will soon receive a ubiquitous service with vivid imagery, life-changing urgency, and a direct link to both over-the-air broadcast and Internet-delivered content.

-Dave Arland, IBA Executive Director


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