Archived Tech-Notes
Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala      The following are our current e-mail addresses:
E-mail = or
 We have copied the original Tech-Notes below as it was sent out.  Some of the information may be out of date.

TV Tech Notes

% Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala

(408) 778-3412 or (661) 294-1049

 E-mail = or

June 21, 1999

       DTV Tech Note - 032


                     Talent does what it can  -- Genius does what it must!

What are we about?  The sharing of experiences, knowledge, observations, concerns, opinions or anything else relating to Electronic Cinema, DTV, HDTV, etc., with fellow engineers and readers.  We publish when there is something to share.  We only send the DTV Tech Notes directly to those, like yourself, who have asked to be on our mailing list, however feel free to forward them, intact, to anyone who might be interested.  There is no charge for this Newsletter.  No one gets paid (sigh)! There is no advertising and we do not indorse any product or service(s).  The ideas and opinions are those of the individual authors.  We don't use any "majordomo" automatic servers.  We administer everything manually.  We do hope that everyone will participate with comments, experiences, questions and/or answers.  We now have 400 subscribers and growing.  This is YOUR forum! 

                                   Past issues are available at: WWW.SCRI.COM


Subj: Digital goes to the Movies

By:   Jim Mendrala

(ED Note: Jim is preparing a report on the most recent Star Wars Movie.  He saw it 3 times:  the film, the Hughes-JVC and the TI-DLP versions.  It will be in our next issue.)


Subj: Stirring the Satellite Legislation Pot  

By:    Larry Bloomfield

The very first nation wide, large scale, regularly scheduled digital television broadcast service, for general public consumption, here in the United States has been the services offered by any of the several Satellite broadcasters, such as DirecTV, PrimeStar, EchoStar, etc.    Tuesday morning, June 15th, I sent out an e-mail to everyone on our DTV Tech Notes mailing list about the current legislation being formulated in congress that will determine what network and local television material subscribers to these kinds of Direct-to-home Satellite services will be permitted to receive.  Included in that posting was a list of the senators on the conferee committee and a sample letter expressing my personal point of view on the matter.  Since you all received it, I will not duplicate it here.  (if you want a copy, e-mail me.)  

Well, did I ever stir up a hornet's nest with that June 15th letter!  At least we know someone is reading our material.  The following are two responses to that posting from gentlemen whom I have nothing but the highest professional respect and regard for.  I believe their positions, though different from mine, deserve equal time.


Subj:  New Satellite Home Viewer's act.

From: P. Eric Dausman  >> <<

(Ed Note: Eric is Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering at the NBC affiliate, KGW Channel 8, in Portland, OR)

It's clear you are not interested in helping the industry that is pays your salary. Local into local is the answer. Newspapers are not regulated by the Federal Government. They are not mandated to spend their money to convert to a new digital standard, and they are not mandated to carry children's programming, and they are not mandated to give favorable rates to political candidates. You are not comparing apples to apples. This is essentially a Copyright and exclusivity rights question. Companies that pay for such rights in this country should be afforded that protection. It is protected by our constitution.

If you purchased a McDonald's franchise you would not be happy with McDonalds if after a year or two of operation, they sold another McDonald's franchise across the street from you. It is exactly the same. If you purchase exclusivity, you should get it. These rights are protected in this country. If your satellite carrier wants to compensate us for each viewer that they steal from our exclusive franchise that we paid for, then fine.

P. Eric Dausman


Subj:  Waivers

From: Roy Trumbull  >> <<

(Ed Note: Roy is Asst. Chief Engineer at the NBC affiliate, KRON Channel 4, in San Francisco)

 I'm afraid the waiver business is more complex than either of us might suspect. It has to do with copyrights and networks. If you get the OK to watch NBC on Direct TV and it comes out of New York or LA, then you are seeing spots intended for another market. The network losses control over its ability to sell markets to advertisers. To them, it's a big deal.

The local TV station is like a soft drink bottler with a franchise for that product. If the franchise holder at the other end of the state can come in and raid your customers, then what's the use of the franchise? The local viewer doesn't see the local market commercials, which is all a local TV

station has to sell.

And have the satellite providers entered into a contract with the networks and paid them a head count fee for distribution to the copyright holders? I think not.

The intent of SHVA was that someone without any local TV service would be able to get the networks. But it's been stretched beyond recognition because the satellite providers sold imported network service in the local station's grade A contour. Never mind about grade B. Now all that is a God given right.

The only good thing about the SHVA (Satellite Home Viewers Act) before Congress is that the door has been opened for satellite carriage of local television. This is the so-called "local into local." It should defuse the issue.

Still open is the issue about how service can be granted to viewers who are mobile and tour the country in an RV or live on a boat. There's no provision for them.

Another issue is what about usage of your TV signal from satellite in a community way beyond your grade B contour? Remember, you only paid the syndicator a fee to use programming within your local area. You don't have super station rights to the programming. But once you're on the bird, you've pretty much lost control. I happen to know that one hotel in Anchorage has San Francisco stations on their TV system.

Here's a whole new career for someone to go and bust commercial locations using unlicensed copyrighted material ala BMI and ASCAP. I think there already is a sports bar gumshoe who busts sports bars and makes them pay a license fee to the networks.

One man's free is another man's income

(ED Note:  After seeing a similar response to the one below, we received this second e-mail a few days later.)

I expect that most of the sales of TV stations in the top 20 markets will be to the networks. That is because, what with the take-back of avails (Fox), the economics point to dumping the network. The networks only choice is to buy.

We started a bit of a storm with Bay-TV and its local content (San Francisco). Took awhile but it caught on. Picture a station in Chicago dumping the net and going local. The locals see all the net deals with cable and satellite. The may be dumb but they're not that dumb.

My point is, from a TV station standpoint, localism works. I was up in British Columbia and I picked up the newspaper. I searched and searched but was hard pressed to find any evidence of this place called the United States a few miles to the South.

Roy Trumbull


Subj: Legislation for Satellite Home Delivery--IMPORTANT

From: Steve Ortmann  >> <<

(Ed Note:  The following was sent to me as a blind courtesy copy (BCC) of a letter one reader e-mailed to the list of senators.  I don't know Mr. Ortmann, personally.  He lives and works in Kansas.)

Dear Senator:

As you ponder the home delivery legislation for satellite television, please consider that any citizen can purchase a magazine, newspaper, or book anywhere in the country. This freedom is important to all of us. Americans should also have the same rights with respect to television. We should be able to view any television station that the satellite carriers elect to present. This will only encourage better programming, and better product. Let the free market take care of itself, don't legislate and "protect".

Thank you for your consideration.

Steve Ortmann


From Larry's prospective

I've been writing professionally now for sometime.  Never in that time, when expressing my personal points of view, have I ever deluded myself into thinking that any or all of my readers would either agree or disagree with me.  I would like to make clearer my views on this subject and answer some of the issues these folks have raised.  I hope you'll stick it out to the end.

It is interesting to note that NBC, like the other networks, does provide the local programs of their owned and operated stations in New York (WNBC-TV) and Los Angeles (KNBC-TV) to the satellite services.  NBC is, however, the only network that cuts out all local advertising from those stations and sells the time to other advertisers. Call 'em up.  You can buy it, if you are so inclined. 

With respect to copyright and franchise, it is interesting to note that all Associated Press, United Press International, King Feature Syndicate and other services to newspapers are copyrighted. Newspapers even carry advertisements for national products through local vendors.  Does this mean those newspapers that carry this copyrighted material or advertising can't be taken outside the area where the paper is published?

Franchises, in most cases, means that you get to use a corporate name and carry their products or offer their services.  There are many legal precedence set that demonstrate if someone can come up with the pesos, they can open up another "franchise" nearly next door to one that's been there for years.  The older franchise can squawk, but it usually doesn't do much good and the legal-beagles end up with more of everybody's money than they deserve.  We've even seen this in broadcasting.  ABC has two stations covering the same DMA in the San Francisco Bay area; KGO-TV channel 7 (an O&O) and KNTV channel 11 (an affiliate) a few miles down the bay.  These kinds of things are rare, but they do happen and I've not heard that either one of these two stations are going broke!

Many people are in this business for years and still don't seem to understand how commercial broadcasting works.  They seem to think that local TV stations sell local commercials.  If this is true then why do we live and die by ratings - Ratings make no sense at all, but yet we live and die by them.  Broadcasters DO NOT SELL TIME (SPOTS)!  THEY SELL VIEWERS -- LISTENERS to advertisers.  Our product is listeners/viewers.  After all, isn't it listeners/viewers that fill out the diaries?  Besides, who in their right mind wants to buy air? (It may not be clean anymore, but so far it's still free.)  Advertisers want people, not air, to hear/see their message. 

What does this big dumb engineer know about this? I had to do research and prepare training sessions and presentations on a product a former employer was trying to put together in the area of air time sales.  Almost to the number, none of the people at that company has ever been inside a TV station and they too thought stations sold airtime; not eyes and ears.

I know this is a technical forum, but isn't it also about our jobs?  If our audience goes elsewhere for entertainment our jobs will go with them.  Satellite service is digital and that's why we're addressing this issue.  One of the comments made was to the effect that I don't know where my bread is buttered.  When working at a TV station, I've never lost sight of the fact that it's buttered by the viewer/listener, not the advertiser.  What ever the engineers do, must be, in all instances, transparent to the viewers or you'll loose them.  If the station doesn't have any viewers why would someone want to advertise on it? 

I'm not talking out of both sides of my mouth!  Yes, I want local-into-local, but I also want the option to watch anything else my satellite service can get to me, even if I have to pay extra for it.  I think it's neat that a guy in Alaska can watch San Francisco programming.  We do have some good local shows here.  By the same token, I'd like to option to watch other NBC stations besides New York and Los Angeles. 

Another issue is that broadcasters shoot themselves in the foot regularly by moving successful shows all over to compete with other successful shows.  An associate of mine said that he has given up watching television because what he wants to watch isn't there; it keeps moving.  He said he couldn't keep up with it.  And then he brought up the issue of reruns in the middle of the season. We talk of local-into-local; if the programmers don't make better strides at getting material that appeals to more local audiences, none of us will have a job in the future of TV. 

The face of television is changing.  Networks, as we know them, will be gone within a few years.  A week doesn't go by that there isn't a story on the wire services about network-affiliate relations deteriorating.  Stations like WAMI in Miami, FL and KICU in San Jose, CA are just two examples of how successful programming appears to be going.  It is quite reminiscent of television on the West Coast back in the early 50's, like KTLA, before the transcontinental microwave system and the over regulation of our industry. You want a local market?  Despite my letter to senators, so do I!  I am a big believer in local broadcasting, not just local spots.  That's really what it's all about, but more than that I believe in unrestricted choice.

Our mobile society demands that they watch what they watch when they want to watch it and not at the whim of, or when, some network or local programming executive says they have to.  All one has to do is look at the features being designed into set top boxes.  Everything from Internet, hard drive storage for program material and much more. Wake up friends; it's here!

Take a look at the once very strong radio networks.  Where are they today?  Radio stations today hold their own based on local appeal and that is most likely the pattern that television will follow. It is our job as broadcast engineers to get what ever our stations and networks have to offer into the viewer and listener's homes (or whatever) as transparently as possible and hope for the best.  What means we use is a whole other story. 

Digital TV works.  Satellite services have proven that, but don't go into the average retail store that sells DTV sets and expect to see anything that even remotely looks good.  Misinformation abounds at the various vendors of this new technology (DTV and HD) and it's out of control.  There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.  My many experiences and those of most all I've spoken to indicate the demos are a disaster which don't look any better than NTSC, in most cases.

One cannot help but wonder, however, if our transition to terrestrial digital isn't going awry, in other ways as well.  Ways that may help kill television, as we know it.  Tests are proving daily (Sinclair) that those who have lead us to where were at may have had other agendas, didn't properly test out what we're implementing before it was cast into stone or just plain didn't know what they were doing.  First, seventy plus percent of all TV viewers are connected to some kind of cable service.  Those who are not, for the most part, use indoor antennas.  This could be anything from rabbit ears to a coat hanger.  If you expect people to go out, put up a 30 foot antenna, which will give them a definite may be mixed result, after spending over five grand plus on a DTV set, then I would like to see if I could interest you in a bridge I have for sale at a very good price.   Easy payments too.

Speaking of money, where is the FCC of a bygone era that had the intestinal fortitude to develop our broadcast industry into the technically finest on the planet. Their ability to generate money has changed the face of the FCC into a department expected to add to the revenue more than a department to be stewards of a precious resource. They have become the money grubbing pawns of governmental bean counters afraid of their own shadows when it comes to setting technical policy and standards.  The FCC is an arm of the Government and the government seems to have evolved into a business:  The United States Government, Inc. Since we no longer want to waste time on determining who is best qualified to hold a broadcast license under PICAN (Public Interest, convenience and Necessity) we'll determine it by auctions.  Obviously those with the most money are best qualified.  Their deep pockets prove this, right? FCC: Watchdog, Stewards?

As long as I'm on the subject of the FCC, remember the FCC 1st, 2nd  and 3rd Phone and then the General class license?  My ten-year-old grandson or your five-year-old daughter, according to the FCC, is fully qualified to work on any transmitter today.  Once was the day when you didn't get a job at a broadcast facility unless you could fix what you operated and had an FCC license. Maybe we should go back.  May be have a required hands-on apprenticeship program. The sad part about the way we do it now is that most engineers don't know what they don't know.

Heresy you say?  Perhaps!  I love this industry. I enjoy building, maintaining and operating broadcast facilities, but I hate to see what is happening.  Take a few minutes from you very busy schedules and look around.  Listen to the viewers and I don't mean Neilson.  General Sarnoff did and he had a good thing going for a while. 

My advice to friend and foe, supporter and detractor of my opinions, alike, instead of being like an inductor that opposes any and all change to the flow, why not see what you can do to make the one thing in life that is a constant easier: CHANGE!   Get out the technical Vaseline and let's all have fun instead of fighting it.

In closing, the sad part to all this is that most readers won't have read this far.  I'd really like to know what all of you think about all this.  I know I don't have the answers and these are not the ramblings of an old man either; just the observations of one who's taken the time to step out of the forest to take assessment of the trees.       And no, I didn't have a bad day.                          Larry


Subj:  Whatever to do with the FAA.  Part II

By     Burt I. Weiner   >> <<

Remember, the story I recently wrote in the last edition of the Tech Notes about the client station, the tower lights and the FCC inspection?  Well, there's more to this continuing saga.

The tower light problem was corrected and the FAA properly notified.  I know, I called to report the repairs myself.  I spoke to a Mr. "Fuzzy Bear".  I gave the station's call letters and exact location per the FAA's wording.  Mr. Bear took the information and told me he'd report the repair.  He thanked me for letting them know and we hung up.  Simple, right?  HA!

A few days later I received a call at home from the FAA.  They were going through their records and just wanted to know what the status of the station's tower lights were.  I recall his exact question, "Have your tower lights been repaired?"  I proceeded to tell him what had been done and about my call to Mr. Fuzzy Bear.  The fellow I was talking to (this time) admitted their record keeping wasn't the best in the world.

By the way, why did I get this call at home?  When I was trying to get this problem straightened out the first time, I left my home number for the supervisor to call me back.  He did, and he understood it was my home number.  That, they managed to log and not lose!

There's one last hope.  Next time you need to report a tower light problem, follow up your phone call with a registered letter.   In Los Angeles their address is:

                     Hawthorne Flight Service

                     12111 S. Crenshaw Boulevard

                     Hawthorne, CA 90250

                     ATTN: NOTAM Position - Operation Floor

Don't forget the return receipt.  When you pay for the return receipt, the Postal Clerk should give you a "receipt for certified mail".  Attach the receipt along with a copy of the letter to your station log.  When you receive the signed returned receipt in the mail attach it your station log along with the letter and original receipt. 

Check with your local FAA office for the reporting point, phone number and mailing address nearest your station.

Report the repair by telephone and letter.  What could be simpler.  Only time will tell.

Since I originally wrote this article we've had to register our towers using coordinates.  The FAA still wants to know the actual location in bearing and distance from a navigational aid because pilots navigate by these aids, not necessarily coordinates.

Burt I. Weiner


Subj:    Standard Definition (SDTV) Production on the Rise

From:  SCRI

(Ed Note: The following SCRI note is our way of saying thanks for them letting us use their web site.)

SCRI's new 1999/2000 Broadcast and Professional Video Marketplace Trends Survey asked broadcast and production facilities by when they expect to be doing standard definition television (SDTV) production.

Over one in three facilities are already doing SDTV production. By the year 2001, almost seven in ten (67.5%) expect to be doing SDTV production. With 17% currently unsure, these numbers are likely to be even higher.

"Broadcasters and production facilities are moving quickly to gear up for enhanced digital production. Our survey data shows that this is also being reflected in increased purchases of digital equipment " commented SCRI's Research Director, Des Chaskelson.

"This report provides manufacturers with a roadmap of the shifting Broadcast and Professional Video Marketplace as we move into the new millennium. The report tracks all the key technology issues, like DTV, video networking and transport, video formats, equipment budgets and production activity trends, incidence of traditional and new video applications like webvideo and CD-ROM and DVD Production."

The new report also includes a special Brand Familiarity and Performance Rating section, and compares the new results with the prior '97 data. Twenty-two major manufacturers are rated on perceived performance for "product quality" and "service." A ranking of the level of familiarity of each brand is also provided. See Table of Contents at:  Contact SCRI at:


The DTV Tech Notes are published for broadcast professionals, and others, who are interested in Electronic Cinema, DTV, HDTV, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be reached by either e-mail or land lines (408) 778-3412, (661) 294-1049 or fax at (661) 294-0705.  (Note - Jim's new area code is 661). News items, comments, observations, opinions, etc. are encouraged and always welcome from our readers; material may be edited for brevity, but usually not. DTV Tech Note articles may be reproduced in any form provided they are unaltered and credit is given to both the DTV Tech Notes and the originating authors, when named.  If they are to be used by a publication that normally compensates their writers, please contact us first.