July 27, 2001
Tech-Note - 086

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RE: Tech-Notes #85 Antennas
(EdNote: Our source for this story pointed out that the first two paragraphs in this story were not from SkyReport, but were personal observations on the subject matter.)


RE: Tech-Notes #084 Low cost HDTV (and two other stories)
From Peter N. Glaskowsky, Senior Analyst, MicroDesign Resources, Senior Editor, Microprocessor Report

1. Actually, a 15" screen (nominally 12" across by 9" down for a 4:3 aspect-ratio display with a 15" viewable area), used at typical desktop distances (20" to 30") can usefully display 300 dpi graphics: 3600 x 2700 or about ten million pixels total. That is, this many pixels "will" produce visibly better results than, say, five million pixels on the same screen.

This figure derives from the basic angular resolution of the human visual system, which is about 0.5 arc seconds. The practical limit for desktop display devices is somewhere in the vicinity of fifty million pixels on 30" displays.

There are displays that prove this point, such as IBM's T220 (a 204-dpi, 22"-diagonal, $22,000 LCD) and an as-yet unavailable 303-dpi Samsung LCD that squeezes 1600 x 1200 pixels into a 6.6"-diagonal screen. I've seen both of these units and they do look substantially sharper than previous generations of displays.

In practice, I actually do watch HDTV content on a 21" computer monitor driven by my RCA DTC-100 DirecTV tuner, which has an RGB output. HD content does, in actual fact, look far, far better than NTSC content on the same screen or on the best standard-definition TV I've ever seen, and I've looked at a lot of really good TVs.

2. One user reports that he took off the small antenna that came with the [access DTV board] and hooked up the RF output of his Dish network satellite to the card and tuned to channel 3 and was able to record HDTV movie from satellite.  I believe the Dish tuner outputs only standard-definition video on its RF outputs; that is, I don't think it has an HD broadcast encoder module. This implies that the user was recording only standard-definition video, even though it was broadcast in HDTV format.

3. Craig Birkmaier of Pcube Labs makes several good points about the advantages of 24p digital cinema over 35mm film presentation. I would add that there are also even more substantial benefits that can be achieved by increasing the frame rate to 60p and improving spatial and color resolution. These enhancements are mandatory if digital cinema is to distinguish itself from HDTV home theater. The movie business can't afford to merely match or slightly exceed the image quality available in the home; it must remain substantially ahead, or it will lose the differentiating features that protect its market niche. 

Subject: WFTX-TV Ft. Myers/Naples Becomes 201st Station to make DTV Transition
From: NAB

WFTX-TV Ft. Myers/Naples, Fl. has begun transmitting digital television signals, bringing to 201 the number of local broadcast stations that have made the DTV transition.

WFTX is a Fox affiliate owned by Emmis Communications, and is the first station in the Ft. Myers/Naples market to begin broadcasting in digital.

The 201 DTV stations are located in 67 markets across the U.S. serving 69 percent of all television households.

Subject: Bottleneck
From: (Paige Albiniak - Broadcasting & Cable)

Key House lawmakers asked their colleagues this past week to oppose an amendment that would forbid the FCC from reviewing and modifying its media ownership rules. In response to a possible amendment being offered by House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey (D-Wis.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and that committee's ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) wrote "a broad brush prohibition like the one Mr. Obey proposes is unwise policy regardless of which side of the underlying issues you may be on." Tauzin and Dingell are urging members to oppose the measure, which may be added to an omnibus spending bill already passed by the Senate, for two reasons. First, Congress has ordered the FCC to review its media ownership rules every two years as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And second, if Congress ties the FCC's hands and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this fall strikes down the national 35% broadcast audience ownership cap, the FCC will not be able to rewrite its rules.

"There would be no limit on the number of stations that a single company could own not because that is necessarily the right policy outcome, but because the expert agency would be blocked from doing its job," the two wrote. The bill is expected to come to the House floor on Tuesday and possibly move to a conference between the House and Senate later this week. 

Subject: How is the H/DTV Transition Going?
From: Dale Cripps, Publisher of HDTV Magazine (

In light of the recent CEA DTV market figures I have asked industry participants and observers the following question:  "How do you see the transition going and do you see it growing into our mainstream future, or???"  The following insightful (and first) answer came from noted author/consultant/engineer, Mark Schubin. Mr. Schubin, who lives in Manhattan and has placed his own apartment at the disposal of the DTV industry as a test 'bed' for DTV reception--a reception often difficult to achieve within the city 'canyons'. 

Note Mr. Schubin's rather pessimistic view of the future of local broadcast television: "I see HDTV as inevitable and local TV broadcasting as critically ill.  HDTV is inevitable because quality always increases (with perhaps the slight relapses of the Faroudja sawtooth). Sony already charges less for an HDCAM recorder than for the equivalent Digital Betacam. Someday, almost everything will be HDTV in the same way that today almost everything is color. It costs more to buy a B&W camera today than to buy a color camera (see the X-10 pop-up ads you can't avoid on the Internet).  Local TV broadcasting is critically ill in part because it is being forced into the DTV transition before it is ready. Public broadcasters are giving up local programming and laying off staff to try to convert. Two New York market public broadcasters are on the verge of shutting down completely and hoping to make some deal for a third to carry their multicasts. Commercial stations have essentially shut down capital budgets except for DTV transmission. Meanwhile, whether or not COFDM would be any better, DTV reception is highly problematic. I lent an antenna recently to the director of engineering of a New York station who has yet to be able to receive his own DTV signal at home (he has no problem with the NTSC). CBS has given blanket authorization for anyone - EVEN WITHIN MARKETS WHERE CBS OWNED STATIONS ARE ALREADY TRANSMITTING DTV - to receive one of two NATIONAL feeds without local ads, local news, or any other local content via SATELLITE. Why? Because satellite reception works. Panasonic touts the fact that a tiny CBS affiliate in Salisbury, Maryland has bought DVCPRO HD gear and is using it for such local purposes as shooting the Delaware State Fair. But if its viewers get CBS NATIONAL programming via satellite, then they'll never see the Delaware State Fair in HDTV. Certainly DTV isn't the ONLY problem faced by local broadcasters. They have more competition from other channels and media, they're being squeezed by networks, etc. But forcing them to air DTV isn't helping. The NAB is asking for DTV broadcasters to be allowed to transmit for fewer hours just to save on power bills.  I fully expect to watch HDTV in the future; I fear it will not be via local broadcasters."

Which HDTV program will you choose as #1 this week? 
HDTV: It's WOW TV!! 


Subject: Industry Tidbits
Gathered from various sources by Fred Lawrence

Hughes Network Systems opened a new network management and operations center, a $20 million facility in Maryland from which the company will manage, monitor and control its global satellite communications operations. Technicians will man the three-floor, 43,000-square-foot facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The facility also will become the operational foundation for DirecWay, which offers end-to-end broadband-by-satellite services for enterprises, consumers, small businesses and telecommuters. Hughs had better be careful that the local tax officials don't try to tax their celestial assets there too. 

Here's just one more step toward more HDTV. InSight Delivers for ASCN - InSight Telecommunications, a provider of content delivery services for broadcasting, cable and Internet businesses, was selected as the provider of satellite transmission capacity by the Oregon-based Action Sports Cable Network (ASCN), enabling the company to launch the first regional High Definition TV (HDTV) sports network. ASCN will utilize some of InSight's extensive satellite capacity to initiate the network and distribute programming throughout the United States. 

Subject: House unit slates more digital hearings
By Fred Lawrence (from various sources)

The possibility of a stay may be in the works for broadcasters in their transition to digital. According to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee plans to hold the second in a series of hearings on the transition to digital television, later on this month. The committee plans to look at the various DTV deadlines, including what to do about stations in small markets that are unlikely to make the May 2002 conversion deadline, how to handle the 2006 deadline by which broadcasters are supposed to give back their analog spectrum, and how to more quickly get broadcasters off of channels 52-59 and 60-69. 

The Bush administration has encouraged the committee to work on legislation that would delay the auctions of channels 60-69 and 52-59 either to Sept. 2002 and Sept. 2004, respectively, or possibly postpone both auctions until 2004. That legislation also may include incentives for broadcasters on those higher channels to clear their spectrum quickly so it can be put to use for third-generation wireless services. 

Paxson Communications Chairman Bud Paxson, has proposed a plan that would let broadcasters accept payments from wireless companies who want to use the spectrum. This, coupled with letting them to keep broadcasting in analog but from a lower channel allocation, might help ease the pain. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed this year. 


Subject: Signal 2 Noise: What Ever Happened to HDTV?
An Opinion by: Charlie White

(EdNote: The following opinion was gleaned from the DTV Professional web site:, where other opinions are posted also. White has been writing about new media and digital video for many years. A technology journalist and columnist for the past seven years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director with 26 years broadcast experience. Other views can be seen there.)

It's That Classic Chicken-and-Egg Syndrome

Hooray for HDTV! But the problem is, fat cats who own broadcast TV stations don't share my enthusiasm.

About a year ago, I had high hopes for high definition television, and looked forward to a near future ("It's here. Now." I would say) where we'd all be shooting, editing and transmitting those pristine 16x9 HD productions. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part. Yep, those old-fashioned standard-definition TVs would be a quaint relic of the past. Well, guess what? This magnificent metamorphosis just hasn't happened. Yet. Why not? What's the holdup?

I think the problem is, fat cats who own broadcast TV stations don't share my enthusiasm. The FCC is pushing them hard. Beyond that, viewers don't seem too enthusiastic, either. It's as if the government decided to throw an expensive party, and nobody showed up. Some party. The government decides it's going to happen, and then all the guests have to pay their own way.

Let's start with the viewers. Many industry observers thought that as soon as the cost of HDTV sets fell below the $3000 mark, the floodgates would open, and everybody and his brother would race out to buy an HDTV set. But sales of HDTVs started out looking like a classic price-gouge -- two years ago, you'd have been hard-pressed to find one for less than $8000. That's certainly not an impulse item. These stratospheric prices were no doubt a wet blanket on hot sales. Now, wide-screen HDTV can be had for as little as $2300. But the American public is not interested. They've bought only 230,000 of the monitors so far, but along with that, only 40,000 of the digital receivers necessary to view broadcasts. Receiver? There's nothing to receive! Can you blame them (us)?

Go ahead, viewers -- buy an HD monitor. You'll be all dressed up with no place to go. Sure, you could subscribe to Direct TV, the satellite service that has one HDTV channel, HBO, and a smattering of pay-per-view offerings in HD. But heck, the former Soviet Union had only one channel to watch, and we used to make fun of them for it. Or, you could watch HDTV via broadcast. There are now hundreds of stations broadcasting digital TV across the US. But wait. These are stations broadcasting in digital TV, not necessarily high definition TV. On the stations that have made the conversion, there's hardly any HDTV to watch. The reception is awful, and lots of those poor souls who bought the new receivers and live in large cities are not happy. Forget about using rabbit ears -- numerous tests of HD broadcasts have proven that reception of the signals is about as easy as picking up a New York station when you live in Chicago. So, we can't blame viewers for not flocking to the local TV store, just to pick up an expensive TV that can't display anything but more of the same claptrap TV we've been getting for the past half-century.

Well then, let's shine our white-hot spotlight on broadcasters. Oh, they have a hard luck story. That mean old government is making them convert all their stations to digital television. Lending them an extra frequency (that some stations are already figuring out how to keep forever through a loophole). Making them buy all new equipment. Boo hoo. In fact, these stations will be able to broadcast four or more standard definition digital television signals instead of broadcasting only one HDTV channel. Face it -- if you were a broadcaster, what would you do? Sell ads on four stations and drag your feet on HD? Sure. Or rent the extra frequencies to some deep-pocketed interloper? Thought so. They're great business plans that quadruple the broadcasters' license-to-print-money that they've enjoyed for the past fifty years. There's a problem with that, though. Those airwaves they're using to earn all that cash are supposed to belong to us, the citizens. The fat cats are charged with using them "in the public interest." Well, good ole' boys, I have news for you: Given enough programs to watch and the ability to receive them without bending over backwards, the public is interested in HDTV.

I think broadcasters, with all their vast resources, are the ones to break this deadlock. Sure, it's a chicken-and-egg situation, where viewers are waiting for HD programming and stations are waiting for HD viewers, but something has to give here. How can these broadcasters just whine their way out of providing HDTV to viewers? Bring it on -- via satellite, the airwaves, DVD, FMD videodisc or whatever. However you do it, make it happen! If broadcasters stall long enough, the world will pass them by. Given the technological progress we've seen in recent years, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw streaming HDTV over the Internet within a few years. Then the whole issue of broadcasting HDTV would be irrelevant.

DTV pros are ready to transmit the stuff -- in fact, many of us already are. But we want to get beyond the experimental-novelty-banking-HD-for-the-future stage. I still think HDTV is inevitable, but it'll just take longer than we would like, similar to the drawn-out adoption of stereo TV in the US. In the meantime, think 16x9. Think HD! But make yourself comfortable. Because for a while, until this HD mess gets untangled, most of us will be doing a lot of thinking, but not much doing.


Subject: Broadband Could Add $500 Billion to Economy
From: Craig Birkmaier

Recently I have talked about the negative impact that the lack of access to broadband services for consumers is having on the high tech economy. There is a reasonable debate as to whether the gatekeepers are purposely dragging their heels and inhibiting bypass attempts by would be competitors. What ever the reason(s) it appears that there is some agreement on the positive impact that widely available broadband would have on the economy, as related through this new study commissioned by Verizon Communications.

One statement is of particular interest:

Plus, the higher consumer demand will also provide a boost to manufacturers of computers, software and entertainment products, which would add another $50 - $100 billion to the economy, according to the study done by economist Robert Crandall and engineering consultant Charles Jackson.

The release goes on to talk about the desire of the telcos to change legislation that forces them to open up their networks to competitors before they can enter the long distance business.

Sure sounds like a "greenmail" attempt to me. "Hey Congress! We will invest in bringing broadband to the masses if you will protect not force us to make our local networks available to competitors."

As I said, the actions of monopolies and oligopolies...

Incidentally, just raised the pricing on business DSL lines from $49 to $79 per month. I guess they did this to pass along the benefits of competition to their business customers...


(EdNote: The study/story Craig refers to can be seen at:


Subject: Finnish First! DTT BROADCASTS

August 27 marks the date when Finland will become the first country where the DVB-MHP standard will be used officially from day 1. The private and commercial participants in the Finnish DTT project are publishing giants Alma Media and Sanoma, MTV3, Nelonen/ Channel 4 and Canal+. Alma Media and Sanoma have both been given a major influence from start on one each of the three multiplexes available, while the controller of the third multiplex is public service broadcaster: YLE. Apart from creating digital versions of its two existing analogue channels, YLE 1 and 2, YLE plans to launch three new channels: YLE Teema (focusing on culture, science and learning), a 24 hour news service, in line with BBC News 24 or Swedish SVT24, and finally FST-D, a service entirely targeted at Finland's Swedish-speaking population. It is expected that set top boxes, fully DVB-MHP compatible, will not be available until later this year, and integrated digital TV sets are supposed to be available for the Christmas period from domestic manufacturers, including Nokia-controlled Salora.


Subject: Copy Protected CDs Quietly Slip Into Stores
From: Cnet

Macrovision, in coordination with several major recording labels, has for several months been piloting new technology to prevent music consumers from copying CDs onto their PCs. The technology distorts CD recordings with a series of audible pops and clicks
when the music is copied onto a PC. The Macrovision pilot is the latest in a series of attempts by the recording industry to protect music from digital piracy. Previous efforts have largely failed, either because various industry elements have been unable to agree on how to implement the technology or because the technology also disrupted normal CD playback. The recording industry's attempts to prevent the copying of CDs onto PCs presents a legal quandary, however, because the courts have recognized the right of consumers to copy copyright-protected work for home use.


Subject: DTV: The Real Story
by Bob Miller

The public will buy the story that the broadcasters are "money-grubbing weasels," but the real story is more complicated. Consumers will want to know what happened when the reality of DTV takes place in third world countries before it does in the US.

(EdNote: These are the opening lines of an opinion that was published on the DTV Professional web site:, where, as mentioned earlier, other opinions are posted also. Controversial?-- Perhaps, but certainly a different point of view. When you read the closing paragraph, which follows, perhaps you'll want to read what's in between.)

The future could be very bright for broadcasters if they chose to be broadcasters. They haven't. They have chosen to be leeches off cable using the power of corrupt political influence and ignoring the best in broadcast technology. They have done so using fraud and deceit right into the face of the press and the press has totally ignored it.


Subject: What are we to make of CEA figures?
From: Dale Cripps

(EdNote: Cripps is the Publisher of HDTV Magazine  Used here by permission.)

Stimulated by the latest round of CEA DTV numbers, I asked the question: "What are we to make of these figures? Is this DTV business going, or is it just trying to go?" I thought those questions were open enough for anyone with a viewpoint to take a shot, even if only to push one's own agenda a bit.

Mark Schubin responded to the question and a modification version of the question, and then came Craig Birkmaier with his comments. Those were the only two. To me that lack of response is a comment in and of itself!

We either have no feel for where we are in this digital transition, or, we are satisfied to accept and react to these two opinions combined. I suppose, as always, there is a vast middle ground, but no one is standing there.

If these views represent all of our views one might conclude that over-the-air broadcasting is suffers from a "critical illness" and transforming into some new form with the whole of signal providing functioning at many different quality levels. And should the prophecy grow overtly visible, the question becomes: Should prime spectrum continue to be granted freely to critically ill or "comatose" local broadcasters?

So, I ask anew, what would a major consolidation of broadcasters mean to your business? To the public? To public policy? Is the likelihood of a major consolidation welcome or feared, or a non-issue? or something in between?

To delve further, I asked Eddie Fritts, via e-mail, over at the NAB. I urge you to answer the questions I asked of him, and, if I have still not asked the right question, ask it of yourself, and then give  us your answer.

Thanks, Dale Cripps

Here's my letter:

Dear Eddie,

I sense that the "tower" of broadcasting is visibly crumbling. I had not been eager to see this view. The broadcasters who are in contact with me, however, do tend to paint a picture dark enough to foster this worry. With FCC Chairman Michael Powell's pronouncements made at the NAB Convention echoing in my ears--"broadcasting may be irrelevant" --I begin to seriously wonder.

--Is it possible that OTA TV has run its natural course and is now sliding to an inevitable end?

--Will it transform into something only faintly recognizable to that which we have today?

--How important is local TV today on a scale of one to ten?

--Is broadcasting still important enough to the nation to "own" the spectrum under its control?

--Is local broadcasting still the backbone of the democratic process, as you have said in the past?

--Is the DTV transition the cause of the clouded future broadcasting is said by many to have, or,

--were the clouds showing long before DTV came along?

--Can DTV wipe away those clouds and deliver a new "silver-lining" for the broadcast industry

--Would you like to see the burden of the HDTV level of the DTV transition supported by someone other than broadcastin

--Or, is all of this merely silly questioning stemming from a cyclic business downturn and sure to be reversed upon the next boomlet in the economy?


--What can you say and do to provide the industry of broadcasting with an unshakeable vision for a prosperous future?

Dale Cripps 

Parting Shots
By Jim Mendrala

Regarding some of the items mentioned above, I tend to agree with the idea that the broadcasters are in trouble but there are a multitude of reasons for their dilemma. The main reason, I believe, is that broadcasters have been hooked onto the networks too long and have, in a lot of cases, been reduced to providing only the local news, weather, sports and some local advertising. Now this is not bad in itself but local broadcasters could do a lot more by providing some interesting content in HDTV for the future. If they don't, then they will be reduced to just being an outlet for the new "Casting Centers" that are going to be starting up in the near future. Then even the local news, weather and sports could disappear.

Broadcasters today do not seem to have anything-unique going for them. True they broadcast over the air but the majority of their viewers are receiving their signal via cable or DBS. Why does the FCC let them continue to broadcast over the air when most of the viewers are watching them with other than OTA signals?

Some of the broadcasters have gone with DTV and have constructed some state of the art facilities, but again they are shooting themselves in the foot by taking SDTV and up-converting it to HDTV when it is not HDTV. DTV has finally removed the link to the viewers display. He can transmit in DTV any of the various formats in the famous "Table 3". That should make him want to improve the station image by going for HDTV in either a progressive or interlace format. He can transmit in the new 16x9 format which is a much more friendlier aspect ratio for all of the wide screen movies and HDTV programs that are about to begin to proliferate the DTV airwaves. The broadcaster should realize that the days of NTSC are over, even though there will be a lot of the old TV sets around for quite some time. What I'm trying to say is with the new DTV, these old sets will be able to watch all of the new programs, even though they are being transmitted digitally in HDTV, because the STB will have the old NTSC output on it for some time to come. When the viewer goes to a store and sees what the station is broadcasting in HDTV, he will tend to want to invest in one of the new high resolution sets.

If the broadcaster continues to drag his feet on the new technology, then he will be competing in the near future with HD-DVDs. True we haven't seen any of these yet in the marketplace, but the way things are going they will certainly become available in the near future. HDTV sales will skyrocket when this happens. 

Some of you are probably disagreeing with me on the above, but I am one of the viewing public and I would like to watch in true HDTV any day over what's being transmitted today over DTV and NTSC.

DBS could in the future replace all of the OTA broadcasters. All that would have to happen is that each TV station that now sends its signals to a transmitter would only have to send its signal to an up-link station to be relayed up to a satellite. Just about anyone who can see the sky can receive DBS transmissions. The DBS folks have got their act together up to a point and some are getting onto the HDTV bandwagon.

The consumer today says "Why switch to DTV when my NTSC looks better than what I've seen at the store in DTV." Most stores do not even have an antenna set up to receive DTV signals. They figure that if you buy a new set with a DTV receiver and if you don't like it, you can take it back and they will refund your money. That is not the way, in my opinion, to introduce new technology. People switched to CDs because the music sounded better. No annoying clicks and pops, better dynamic range, higher fidelity and best of all convenience. Today you can even copy to your own custom CD the cuts that you like, all with digital clarity unless Macrovision and several of the big record labels have their way. 

Changing the subject, what is HDTV anyway? To me it is a big, wide image that I can display (if my pocket book will let me) an image in my home that is of almost theatrical quality. From what I have seen in the theaters today, HDTV will do just fine. Digital cinema so far to date has been showing images that are 1280 x 1024 on a screen in either a 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The TV set manufacturers have taken the attitude that 1280 x 720 pixels is more than adequate for the home. Neither of these display formats are true HDTV, which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.  The 1280 x 720 image seems to stand up very well on screens up to 30 feet wide, as was demonstrated at NAB and Infocomm. Now 30 foot screens would never fit in a home, but screens up to 8-10 feet wide are possible with that kind of resolution. 

What I'm getting at here is that the broadcaster could become sort of an independent content maker and could start producing content for the big, wide screen. This could be a new source of revenue for, "The Bean Counters". Local ads on the local channel are okay but in my opinion they cannot generate as much revenue as a local production in HDTV can. The outlets for these productions could be the local DTV channel, DVDs, Museums and maybe in the near future the local theater. Hollywood has been producing content for the broadcasters and networks for years and they have been making a fortune at it. 

Producing for HDTV is no more difficult than producing for SDTV. Only the equipment needs to be HDTV capable. Today the cost of the equipment, which has been prohibitive, is now almost at a par with the best of the older gear. Some writers have stated this in some of the trade publications. Cost no longer can be the excuse for not taking the plunge into the new world of HDTV and DTV.

"That's it for this time."


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