Digital television

There has been some recent articles in the local press about the need for our local stations to convert to digital signal. There is usually a vague reference to a federal law that mandates broadcasts be digital by some date in the near future.

I am wondering why congress decided that digital TV is a national issue. Why do they care if its digital?

To stimulate the economy by creating an artificial demand for digital technology, so people will buy HDTV sets, and manufacturers will be motivated to further develop the technology. They don’t care about the technology per se.

It wasn’t Congress, it was the FCC. As I understand it, all US broadcast TV service is supposed to be digital by 2006. Once all broadcast TV is digital, the old analog frequencies will be reallocated for other purposes.

Of course, given that digital TV receivers are still quite pricey, and there’s no indication that prices will decrease significantly in the foreseeable future, the 2006 deadline is in doubt. Also, the cable industry has been very reluctant to carry local digital stations; according to them, the digital signals take too much of the cable bandwidth, so they’d have to cut the number of channels offered.

Check out http://www.hdtvpub.com/index.cfm and http://www.digitaltelevision.com/ for more info on HDTV than you’d probably ever need to know…

-bbb-

Actually, it’s just the opposite. The average analog channel uses (approx.) 6MHZ of bandwidth and digital signal is compressed, allowing about 8-10 channels on a 6MHZ band allocation.

We have had digital terrestial TV in the UK for a couple of years now. After a false start it is going quite well. To recieve it ,all that has to be done is to purchase a set-top box costing £80 - £100 and you get approx 30 tv and 15 radio stations all non subscription. The package consists of all the existing analogue stations plus a few extras. There is no need to buy an HDTV set as the box works with existing equipment although to get the best out of it you realy need a widescreen set. The plan is that the UK will switch off the analogue service by 2010. Intergrated digital TVs are also appearing on the market.

You haven’t been TV shopping lately, have you? HDTV-ready rear projection sets now cost about what standard rear projection sets did a couple of years ago. Set top box prices have also decreased significantly (probably to about half what they were 1-2 years ago). Most cable companies are switching to digital, and HD is also becoming available there. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that prices will be at a level reachable by most consumers by the 2006 deadline. The big stumbling block seems to be 16:9 direct-view sets; the reason for that is that it costs a lot to convert (or build new) assembly lines for the new tubes. AFAIK RP sets still use tubes with 4:3 ratio (a mature technology), but with much higher resolution.

Regarding why the government is involved: because the FCC grants the licenses, it can dictate how they are used. If they were not involved, the networks would not upgrade to HDTV (it won’t gain them additional recenue, and it costs a lot) and we’d be stuck with NTSC forever.

Yes, but they’re still quite a bit pricier than conventional CRT-based sets (I despise projection TVs; I’ve never seen one that can be viewed in a well-lit room, or can be viewed from more than 10-20 feet). CRT-based HDTV sets seem to cost 50-100 percent more than their analog counterparts. Not that it matters, since I can’t even afford to buy a regular TV right now.

Assuming you can find one; I’ve never seen one in my local Circuit City, Best Buy, etc. If the retailers don’t carry them, price doesn’t matter.

True, but that seems to be occuring mostly in major metro areas. In smaller cities and out in the country, lots of cable systems are just getting around to installing HFC (hybrid fiber coax, a necessary step before you can offer cable modem, digital, or HD). Actually, the availability of HDTV on cable systems will probably be a large driver for the HDTV market; once you can receive the HDTV signals, it makes sense to get a set that can display them. Anyway, it seems that HDTV over cable is going to take a couple of years; Charter, one of the largest cable providers, only offers HDTV in five markets now, and they don’t seem to be in a big hurry to deploy it in other markets.

That is a major hurdle; lots of people don’t like projection sets, nor have the space for them.

Agreed.

Thanks for your comments. Quite interesting.

However, why does the FCC believe we need HDTV and digital equipment? Is the current picture not clear enough? Are they trying to get us to watch more television? :eek:

If I can see Peter Jennings on the evening news fine now using my rabbit ears what additional benefits do I get from the upgrade? I can understand why HD is needed in certain technical applications (surgery for example), but I don’t understand why I need to see Jennifer Aniston in yet better living color. :confused:

[QUOTE]
*Originally posted by Labor *

However, why does the FCC believe we need HDTV and digital equipment? Is the current picture not clear enough? Are they trying to get us to watch more television? :eek:

I know this isn’t the place for opinions but if I had to guess I would say it’s a good way to take money from the huge electronic corps (and the bigwigs sucking up stockholder equity) and force them to put it back into their companies (rather than into their bank accounts) - through research, marketing, production, etc. (more jobs), thus putting more money back into our economy.

There’s also more to DTV than HDTV. Using the standard 6mHz channel, a broadcaster can transmit one standard definition analog signal, one high definition digital signal, or several digital standard definition signals with assorted other data services.

This has a lot of implications:

A full HDTV signal is about 20 MB/s, so if you compress it just slightly to around 15 MB/s, you can use the remaining bandwidth for data services (e.g. electronic program guides, ‘click for more information,’ etc.) Those additional data services are the big benefit of DTV; you can use your TV for more than just video programming.

Since broadcasters can put about 6 standard def digital signals on their spectrum, they could just show the same programming 6 times, but offset each one by 1/2 hour or something. Didn’t make it home in time for Letterman at 11:30? Catch it on the next run at 12:00.

IMO, HDTV is pretty, but only makes a difference to me when watching sports or movies. Other than that, as several above have indicated, it doesn’t matter to me if I can see Everybody Loves Raymond in HD, I’d rather my local station show me sitcoms and news in standard def and use the rest of their bandwidth for data or to show alternate programming, then crank up the high def for the big game. Ever seen golf or baseball in HD? Breathtaking.

I’m guessing that most stations will show thier standard stuff on 1 channel and have 5 channels of infomercials (except for event programming like superbowl, oscars, etc)

Tho some shows are already high-def.

At least one company is is trying to use the extra capacity for other stuff. www.iblast.com

Brian
disclaimer:I know someone who works at iblast

Huh? How can you miss them at BB or CC? It’s about all they pimp these days. If you want an “old fashioned” CRT, you have to go to the back of the TV section - all of the HDTV stuff is out front.

I believe the item they don’t have at BB or CC was the set-top receiver that lets you receive HDTV, not the sets themselves. Most of the sets at BB, CC, etc. are not really HDTV sets, they’re just HD monitors. You have to add the receiver to make them actually display an HD signal. This is where so much confusion arises. People go buy an HD-ready monitor from a retailer who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, and are never told that they need a receiver to actually get HD broadcasts. They then go home and plug in their digital cable and think they’re watching HDTV.

Fortunately, the market is working to fix this, as most satellite and cable providers who offer HDTV will rent you an HD cable or satellite receiver as part of your monthly bill, so you can actually receive HD signals. If you’re just going to watch over-the-air broadcasts, though, you do need a receiver, and that’s what you’ll have trouble finding in a retail store.

If you have not seen a true HDTV picture, you don’t know what you’re missing. Consider that the picture in your current TV consists of about 480 lines. An HD picture consists of 1080 lines. That’s over twice as dense. Even the best, clearest, “direct to digital” DVDs currently have to be limited to 480 lines. Compare the DVD of “Star Wars II” to an HD broadcast of “CSI” and the difference is striking. Compare an HD broadcast to a current fuzzy analog broadcast and the difference is amazing.

Do we “need” HDTV? Did we “need” color TV? Do we “need” TV at all? Not in the strictest sense, but as long as we’ve got it, it should eventually keep up with the times. And the current TV system is over 60 years old. I think a change is due.

"Most of the sets at BB, CC, etc. are not really HDTV sets, they’re just HD monitors. "

Well, I saw one today that has a hdtv tuner in it…but finally the CC store put out a hdtv with a hdtv program playing on it…oh my…warning: don’t look at hdtv pictures cause once you do, you won’t want to look at your old set again :slight_smile:

I agree HDTV is SOMETHING to see.

TV stations are given their current analog frequency. They are also given another channel to broadcast HDTV on. After a few years (2006 target date), all Analog will cease. Then the stations can choose their Old Analog Channel or their Digital Channel to broadcast Digital TV on.

For instance WBBM-TV Channel 2 Analog, Channel 3 Digital. WGN-TV Channel 9 Analog, Channel 19 digital. Now most stations are so well know it is highly unlikely they will choose to broadcast on their digital frequency.

However, the FCC which took Channels 84-91 (never used anyway) away from TV, and took Channels 70-83 (not used much for Full Power TV) Away from TV, now said also Channels 60-69 will be taken away. These will be used by cellular phones. Most recently it was said Channels 52-59 will be used by cell phones too.

What does this mean? Say WJYS Channel 62 Hammond or Digital TV 36. Well there will be no Channel 62 so it MUST go to its DTV channel.

DTV allows each channel to broadcast up to 4 subchannels plus the orginal for 5 total.

OR they can use ALL FIVE channel to broadcast HDTV. There are some forms of HDTV that only take up 3 channels but the quality is in dispute.

So digital does NOT necessarily mean HDTV.

Problems arise when say a New Jersey station in Atlantic City has an analog channel that cannot reach Philadelphia. The Digital Signal does. Now they want to invoke the must carry rule and make Philly cable systems carry their DTV signal.

Some channels say not only must you carry our DTV signal but our FOUR subsignals as well.

Now say a station carries CBS on Channel DTV Channel 5 and UPN on Channel DVT 5 subchannel 2. (Since both networks are owned by Viacom)
They do this instead of own two full power analog stations in one market (in some major markets this is do-able)

I now can control more networks, don’t have to put the required amount of community programing for TWO stations. So I get the savings, and I get the reach at the potential expense of the community.

These issues are now in debate.