This month, television broadcasting executives, technologists and engineers gathering in China agreed that a global approach to the future of terrestrial TV broadcasting is "the ideal method to avoid competing standards, overlap, and inefficient deployment of new services." More than 200 delegates to the Future of Broadcast Television Summit held in Shanghai officially expressed unified support for a joint declaration, signed by technical executives from 13 broadcast organizations from around the world. They called for "global cooperation to define new requirements, unify various standards, and promote sharing of technologies to benefit developed and under-developed countries and conserve resources."
Supporters of the declaration have agreed to three major initiatives: defining the requirements of future terrestrial broadcast systems, exploring unified terrestrial broadcast standards, and promoting global technology sharing. The organizations signing the declaration include ATSC, DVB, EBU, IEEE-BTS, NAB, NHK and PBS, as well as CBC and CRC (Canada), ETRI (So. Korea), GloboTV and SET (Brazil) and NERC (National Engineering Research Center of Digital Television, China).
The ATSC Board of Directors endorsed the joint declaration, "recognizing that the global initiative is consistent with the goals of ATSC 3.0 next-generation broadcast standards development," said Samsung Vice President John Godfrey, ATSC board chairman, who accompanied ATSC President Mark Richer and more than a dozen other ATSC members to the summit in China. (The ATSC 3.0 standards are expected to provide improved audio and video compression systems, more-efficient transmission technologies and new applications to serve viewers and broadcasters for several decades - and do not have to be backward compatible.)
The declaration goes on to describe areas of collaboration among the different players, saying, "We seek to maximize proper and efficient use of spectrum resources, as well as exchanges and cooperation among communication systems and broadcasting on both a technological and business level. We support full exploration of the benefits of common tool sets and interface points in the development of new digital systems and standards that can be globally supported and eventually deployed worldwide. By fully exploiting the advantages of different technology systems, we aim to explore global standard unification and to achieve industrial convergence with technology integration."
Those are lofty pronouncements, but will it fly? Historically, the different worldwide broadcast standards came about due to differences in developmental timing, closed technology development, power line frequency, spectrum allocation, and of course, business considerations and national politics. Global standards have been approached before, with limited results. The advent of digital broadcasting brought hope that a single worldwide standard could exist. But the common elements became elusive, due to many of the same historic factors. Ultimately, a single video compression standard was the only solid point of agreement, with modulation and audio subject to fierce debate.
To get a new worldwide broadcast standard, many elements would need to be aligned, with perhaps the chief obstacle remaining that of intellectual property, as it was before. But we now live in a more globally-connected market, where national economies are inextricably interlinked. It may end up that a single global standard is in fact the only cost-effective way to move forward, an evolution of "survival of the economically fittest." -agc