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The Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP) is the protocol used in the ATSC digital television system for carrying metadata about each channel in the broadcast MPEG transport stream of a TV station and for publishing information about television programs so that viewers can select what to watch by title and description.

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What PSIP does

PSIP defines virtual channels and content ratings, as well as electronic program guides with titles and (optionally) descriptions to be decoded and displayed by the ATSC tuner.

PSIP can also send:

  • the exact time referenced to UTC and GPS time;
  • the [short_name], which some stations use to publish their callsign.

PSIP is defined in ATSC standard A/65, the most recent revision of which is A/65C, published in 2006. A/69 is a recommended practice for implementing PSIP in a TV station.

PSIP also supersedes A/55 and A/56 protocol (which have been deleted by the ATSC) methods of delivering an inferior program guide. TV Guide On Screen is a different, proprietary system provided by datacasting on a single station, while PSIP is required, at least in the United States, to be sent by every digital TV station.

PSIP information may be passed through the airchain using proprietary protocols or through use of the XML-based Programming Metadata Communication Protocol (PMCP, or ATSC A/76) facility metadata scheme.

Included tables

  • STT (system time table)¹ - current time, transmitted at least once per second, with an accuracy of new time values within 1 second or better
  • MGT (master guide table)¹ - data pointers to other PSIP tables
  • TVCT (terrestrial virtual channel table)¹ - defines each virtual channel and enables EITs to be associated with the channel
  • CVCT (cable virtual channel table) - assigns numbers to each virtual channel and enables EITs to be associated with the channel
  • RRT (rating region table) - content ratings for each country (region) covered by the station, save the U.S., as that region is loaded into TV sets already
  • EIT (event information table)¹ - titles and program guide data
  • ETT (extended text table) - detailed descriptions of channels (Channel Extended Text Table or CETT) and aired events (Event Extended Text Table or EETT)
  • DCCT (directed channel change table) -
  • DCCSCT (directed channel change selection code table) - provides for the ability to update states, counties and program genres used in DCCT tables

¹ indicates a US FCC requirement

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Directed channel change

The DCC function lets broadcasters tell a DTV receiver where to change, based upon the viewer's settings. This is most likely to be a ZIP or other postcode, which can select demographically-based programming to show, such as television commercials or weather bulletins, possibly taken from an accompanying datacasting channel.

Implementation of the DCC feature is entirely optional, and depends on development of receiver and decoder technology. For example, a digital video recorder could record commercials broadcast at other times for later replay, so that many more different commercials could be shown in different parts of a large metro area than can actually be transmitted at once.

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