SEPARATE STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER JAMES H. QUELLO
Re: Action Concerning the Service Rules for Digital Television
Advanced Television Systems and Their Impact upon the Existing Television Broadcast Service (MM Docket No. 87-268, Fifth Report and Order)
By adoption of this order the Commission hopes to provide a
smooth transition to digital television broadcasting. Although
we have attempted to refrain from regulation as much as possible,
we have adopted rules where such rules are appropriate. Our
overriding goal is to preserve free over-the-air broadcasting
that continues to serve the public interest.
It is clear from the broadcasters' overwhelming response to
our concerns over the build-out schedule for DTV that
broadcasters are, in fact, anxious and primed for DTV conversion.
No industry has worked harder, and I applaud them for their
efforts. Although we do adopt a rule that implements a build-out
schedule, I personally do not believe that such a move is
necessary to ensure that broadcasters play their part in making
DTV a success. To premise rules on a fictional intent on the
part of broadcasters to delay the implementation of DTV defies
reason. However, I do believe that the build-out rules that we
adopt will only coincide with what the marketplace, and
broadcasters themselves, would achieve on their own. In
addition, we have adopted criteria for extensions of time of
these scheduled periods that should accommodate broadcasters who
run into either unforeseeable circumstances or valid
circumstances beyond their control that would warrant additional
In our decision, we implement Congress' intent that
broadcasters continue to provide free over-the-air service, but
retain the flexibility to respond to the demands of their
audience by providing supplementary services that do not derogate
the free service. In this regard, we decline to mandate that
broadcasters provide an HDTV signal comprised of all 6 MHz. It
is optional whether to broadcast HDTV signals or standard
Notably, we do not address what impact, if any, conversion
to DTV may have on current public interest obligations.
Broadcasters are always obligated to serve the public interest,
and, a great majority meet that obligation admirably. I am well
aware of the industry initiatives, expense and diligence that
went into developing DTV. It is incongruous to "reward"
broadcasters by imposing additional, quantifiable public interest
obligations for their developing an advanced technology that
provides superior video and audio TV services for the public, and
I would oppose any such initiatives. We do not, however, reach
these issues today.
By our order, we initiate a two-year review process that
will permit us to monitor closely any problems associated with
digital conversion. I believe firmly that the marketplace, not
government, must resolve the majority of issues remaining.
However, to the extent this Commission can facilitate the
process, we may still yet have a role to play.