Going digital on 2/17/2009

Hello People,

I am curious to know, if anyone (especially conspiracy theorists) knows why the “LAW” was passed, to go digital, for receiving broadcast air waves from/for free TV? (In the US of A)

Is there some kind of hidden agenda???
Other than just the promise of better reception…

I mean… Why on earth does it have to be a LAW?

Aren’t there way too many laws already?

Your knowledge and thoughts will be appreciated!

Thank You.
evilC from evilCozPoetry.

Besides better signal quality, you can squeeze more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.

Read about it here.

The reason is because digital encoding provides for far greater bandwidth and more features than analog over-the-air transmission. This means that broadcasters can provide simulcasts in multiple languages, alternative programming, HD and SD transmissions at the same time, and a multitude of other options.

Possibly. But if it was hidden, how would we know about it?

Not just better reception – see above.

Terrestrial airwaves are considered to be public property in the United States, and that’s why the federal government set up the FCC and charged it with promulgating technical regulations and standards for how the airwaves are used. I’m not sure if the mandated switch is due to FCC regulation or an actual new statute (or both) but that’s the reason the government is involved.

Damn straight.

Of course it’s a viable standpoint to say that certain areas in modern societies are overregulated and should be left to themselves, instead of imposing restrictions on them. OTOH, there are certain areas which need to be regulated in the interest of the public as a whole, and also in the interest of actors on the regulated market. Broadcasting is such a field: There are plenty of entities interested in suing certain bandwiths of frequencies: Cellphone operators; TV and radio stations; the military; air traffic; CB radio operators; scientists scanning the skies for signals; and many more. Radio frequencies have become a scarce commodity, so their allocation has to be regulated - if everybodycoudl freely use any frequency he likes to, there’d be chaos. That’s why there are authorities like the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. regulating it. They decided to swicth to digital broadcasting because it allows more information to be transmitted via the same bandwidth, which obviously serves the common good.

The problem the FCC has always faced is that if they wait for the “marketplace” to get things done, it’ll never happen.

Part of the HDTV plan is to move all TV stations to UHF channels. The FCC has plans for the VHF spectrum now occupied by TV channels 2-13. If they simply wait for the existing stations to take the financial plunge, move to HDTV and scrap their VHF transmitters, they’ll have a long wait ahead of them. If I remember right, this is why they set the “drop dead” date for NTSC broadcast television.

The FCC has found it necessary to step in in the past. UHF TV, for example. They ran out of available VHF channel assignments in the early '50s, and soon added the UHF channels. But for some reason manufacturers were loathe to make VHF/UHF sets. This put UHF stations sharing a market with VHF stations at quite a disadvantage - no one could pick them up. The FCC’s first attempt to fix this was “deintermixture” (count on the gov to find an ugly word for what it does): they changed channel assignments so TV markets were either all-VHF or all-UHF. Still no UHF sets being made. Finally they said the hell with it and required manufacturers to include UHF receivers in all TV sets. Problem solved.

And FM radio didn’t take off until the FCC set a requirement that all radio receivers retailing for more than ten bucks (mid-60s money) be able to receive FM as well as AM.

The marketplace may be efficient, but sometimes it is damned slow.

It’s only efficient at responding to pressures. The FCC has to exert effective pressures for the market to respond to, that’s all.

evilCozPoetry: There are already laws about everything that is broadcast in this country.* The switchover, to my knowledge, does not involve any new laws at all. It is just the consequence of the laws we already have and the increasing maturity of digital TV technology.

*(Yes, even the ‘unregulated’ bands are regulated to the extent the law says they are largely unregulated. And I do not know of any bands that are completely unregulated.)

That part of the plan is no longer operative.

The FCC is allowing stations to move back to the VHF bands. This is important for many stations that would face high energy costs in replicating their current coverage with a UHF transmitter.

The original agenda, many, many, years ago, was to keep television spectrum out of the hands of heathens like Motorola and the two-way radio industry. The idea was that utilization of the television spectrum could be doubled by having each television station assigned a high-definition augmentation channel. A high definition receiver would take information from the two channels and produce a high definition image. Sort of like how color was added to NTSC.

See Joel Brinkley’s book “Defining Vision”.


I think you mean: “By sacrificing better signal quality, you can squeeze more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.”

Seriously, digital TV sucks compared to a decent quality analogue signal. True, with digital you get either a reasonable picture or nothing, rather than a continuum from excellent to fuzzy to unwatchable, but the pictures are so horribly overcompressed. Anything that involves steam or smoke, e.g. cookery shows or music concerts, is full of horrible JPEG artifacts. Okay, MPEG artifacts, I suppose, if you want to be fussy.

Got to antennaweb.org and enter a location (example 54650)
You will see that WKBT-DT is currently on channel 41.
But it will be back on channel 8 post transition (its on the lsit)

I can’t find a primary cite though


Digital Television Information, Office of Engineering and Technology, Federal Communications Commission

Part of the reason was so that they could auction off the analog channels, and thereby make money.

Exactly. I thought the not-so-hidden agenda was the desire to reap billions by auctioning off the analog spectrum.

Most problems with digital video can be traced to inadequate bit rates and transmission errors. Even with analog television, many of the distribution links are now digital. Analog video is not long for this world.

I see a lot of crappy digital video on my local cable system. Much of it can be blamed on the operator’s lack of interest in fixing non-catastrophic problems in their system, and their willingness to trade quality for additional channels.

The frequencies used for analog transmission penetrate tinfoil hats better.

That became an issue after they discovered that an all-digital television broadcasting system could make more efficient use of the broadcast spectrum.

Who’s “they?” The proceeds from FCC spectrum auctions, like nearly any government sale, go directly to the general fund of the US treasury. It’s not like some mustache-twirling FCC commissioner has it stashed in his Swiss bank account.

They being the government/Congress. I’m not saying it’s particularly sinister. Here’s a Congressional Research Serrvice about the transition (in PDF)


From their perspective, it’s great. They raise billions without raising anyone’s taxes.