October 29, 2001
Tech-Note - 092
This is YOUR forum!
~~ Reader Responses, Inquiries & Comments ~~
I appreciate the service you are providing...
One subject I'd like to see covered, is information on digital audio Full Scale Digital (FSD) levels and how they relate to back to analog levels, both here and in Europe. At our plant, 0 dBFS relates to +24 dBu when converted back to analog. I believe this is somewhat of a de facto standard in North America, but have nothing to back that up.
However, a lot of transmission equipment (Motorola DigiCipher 2 system gear for example), and broadcast equipment (Grass Valley PDR series servers for example) use a standard whereby 0 dBFS relates to +18 dBu in the analog world. Why is this? It wreaks havoc with levels if an A-to-D conversion is done with a different family of products than is doing the final D-to-A conversion at the customers' set tops.
CORUS Premium Television
Subject: NAB Warns About Suspicious Letters At Radio And TV Stations.
Please advise your entire staff to look
for the following 'clues' when opening their mail"
Stockholders and Consumers Benefit As Combined Hughes-EchoStar Provides Meaningful Competitor To Cable TV Companies
NEW YORK - Oct. 29, 2001 General Motors Corp. and its subsidiary Hughes Electronics (NYSE: GM, GMH) together with EchoStar Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH), today announced the signing of definitive agreements that provide for the spin-off of Hughes from GM and the merger of Hughes with EchoStar. The combined company would use the EchoStar name and adopt the DIRECTV brand for its services and related products. The merger would create the nation's second-largest pay television platform with more than 16.7 million subscribers, of which 1.8 million subscribers are National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) and affiliates, and 14.9 million subscribers are owned-and-operated by the combined company. Cable TV companies presently control more than 80 percent of the U.S. pay television market, while a combined EchoStar-Hughes would provide service to about 17 percent of the market.
The transaction is expected to require approximately $5.5 billion of total financing, which EchoStar expects to fund in the capital markets prior to closing. Completion of this financing has been backstopped by a bridge commitment of approximately $2.75 billion from Deutsche Bank, and a bridge commitment of approximately $2.75 billion from General Motors, the latter of which the parties plan to replace with a commitment from one or more other leading financial institutions in the near future. The GM bridge commitment is secured by a pledge of $2.75 billion of EchoStar stock held by a trust controlled by EchoStar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles Ergen.
The transaction is subject to a number of conditions, including approval by a majority of each class of GM shareholders - GM $1-2/3 and GM Class H - voting both separately as distinct classes, and also together as a single class. Approval of the majority of EchoStar's voting shares has already been given by written consent. The proposed transaction also is subject to regulatory clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and approval by the Federal Communications Commission. The transaction is also contingent upon the receipt of a favorable ruling from the Internal Revenue Service that the separation of Hughes from GM will qualify as a tax-free spin-off for U.S. Federal Income Tax purposes. The transaction is currently expected to close in the second half of 2002.
"This transaction provides significant benefits to Hughes, EchoStar, millions of present and future DIRECTV customers, and shareholders of both GM and EchoStar," said GM President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner. "We've said all along that we wanted to structure an agreement that would provide continued strong growth at Hughes and maximum value for both GM and GM Class H shareholders. This transaction achieves these objectives."
"U.S. consumers also would benefit from the combined company's ability to increase significantly the number of markets served with local channels via satellite, provide additional channel offerings, increase high-definition TV (HDTV) offerings and accelerate the introduction of next-generation high-speed Internet services," Ergen continued. "Together, EchoStar's DISH Network and Hughes' DIRECTV also can provide a range of services that would bridge the `digital divide' - providing high-speed broadband solutions to consumers and businesses. Importantly, these services would be available in rural areas otherwise far from the information superhighway at rates which the company is prepared to assure regulators would be competitive."
"Hughes and its operating companies would be well positioned to thrive as part of this merged company," said Jack A. Shaw, chief executive officer of Hughes. "DIRECTV would enjoy significant cost efficiencies and better use of its assets. Hughes Network Systems would play a key strategic part in the growth of satellite-delivered broadband. PanAmSat would have continued growth opportunities. And DIRECTV Latin America would benefit from the synergies of the larger combined company," Shaw said.
The new company, which would retain the EchoStar name but would use the DIRECTV brand for consumer offerings, would be based in Littleton, Colo., and would employ approximately 20,000 people and serve more than approximately 14.9 million direct-broadcast satellite TV customers. EchoStar and Hughes have pledged that the merger would not cause disruption of service or additional expense to existing customers of either DIRECTV or DISH Network service.
The new EchoStar would be led by Ergen as chairman and chief executive officer. The board of directors would consist of nine members, five of whom would be independent directors.
Ergen added, "I think it is significant that EchoStar and Hughes have agreed to a fair and balanced process for identifying the most qualified people from both companies in order to select the best person for every job, regardless where they worked prior to the merger. This is a key provision that Hughes management felt strongly about and to which EchoStar readily agreed."
For more information, visit www.dishnetwork.com.
Subject: I can buy my own box now
I have a TV that receives analog NTSC, OTA HDTV and HDTV from DirecTV without needing a separate set top box. They ALMOST got it right...
Subject: DIGITAL LIVING ROOM - Consumers
Boxed In by Cable Dispute
Responding to pressure from federal regulators, cable TV operators announced plans this month to let customers do something most have never been able to: buy a cable converter box.
Of course, most consumers have never wanted to buy a cable box. What consumers want is a TV set that can tune in to digital cable and premium channels without requiring extra boxes, wires, remote controls and monthly fees.
They can't do that, though, mainly because of a long-running dispute between the cable operators and set manufacturers. That dispute has held up the standards needed to bring "cable ready" sets into the digital age. Cable companies, electronics manufacturers and consumers all want to move away from the current system of cable operators leasing set-top boxes to their customers, said Mark Smith, a spokesman for the National Cable Television Assn. "How can this be such a quagmire," Smith asked, "that it could be in everyone's interests and no one can work it out?"
The dispute is more financial than technical.
It's a tussle over who will be able to offer interactive program guides,
Web-based entertainment and a host of other digital services--just the
"There aren't any good guys and there aren't any bad guys here," said Michael Petricone, vice president of technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Assn. "Every player is acting according to their specific business interests."
There are signs that the dispute may be resolved over the next year or two, perhaps by the time that masses of consumers start shopping for digital TV sets. For now, though, the split between the two sides is causing the cable operators to make an interim offer that consumers can easily refuse.
That offer, announced by the cable association Oct. 10, would enable consumers to buy digital converter boxes identical to the ones they lease from the local cable operator. Because each cable operator uses a different scrambling technology and digital software, buyers could wind up with a useless converter box if they move to a different cable operator's turf.
The association tried to address that problem by saying cable operators would buy back digital boxes when consumers moved. The catch is the refunds would be based on the wholesale price of the box, minus depreciation.
At the root of the dispute is the cable industry's longtime reliance on two competing companies--Scientific Atlanta and the General Instrument division of Motorola--to equip their systems. Each company uses a unique and secret scrambling technique to protect premium and pay-per-view channels, and that technique varies from cable operator to cable operator.
The patchwork of private scrambling systems effectively blocked TV manufacturers from making converter boxes or sets with a built-in capability to display premium channels. But Congress intervened in 1996, ordering the cable industry to support an open, competitive market for converter boxes and truly cable-ready sets. The Federal Communications Commission eventually gave the cable industry until 2000 to provide descramblers that could be plugged into any manufacturer's set-top boxes or sets.
Meanwhile, the compatibility issue grew more complex as all the major cable companies started converting to digital networks. These new systems, which enabled the cable operators to provide more channels and new services, couldn't attach directly to a TV set--they need to run through a digital converter box.
Even the new generation of digital TVs can't tune in to digital cable without a converter box. That's because the cable operators use a different transmission technique than the local broadcasters, and today's digital sets are built to the latter's specifications. The cable operators met the deadline for supplying plug-in descramblers, but TV manufacturers balked at building converter boxes or sets that couldn't handle digital cable. As with scrambling technologies, cable operators have deployed a patchwork of incompatible digital-cable systems, effectively blocking manufacturers from building digital-cable-ready products.
The cable industry's research and development arm, CableLabs, has finished its proposed initial specifications for digital cable hardware and software. Until the major cable operators commit to supporting those specifications, however, no manufacturer will build products for them, Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Assn. said.
Leading cable companies are expected to announce their commitment to the CableLabs proposal shortly. But there's a more fundamental disagreement between the manufacturers and cable operators, reflecting their battle over new services.
The digital technologies embraced by cable operators have moved their systems from simple TV broadcasting into a host of communications and information services. As a result, the set or converter box that attaches to a digital cable system becomes a critical link to a variety of potentially lucrative offerings.
"This box is the gateway into the home for all these new services," Petricone said. "It's extraordinarily valuable."
Petricone said cable operators are trying to exert tight control over what their customers have access to in order to maximize their revenue. But cable-industry officials say they're not stopping the consumer-electronics companies from offering services--they just want to be paid for the use of their pipes.
The two sides are battling over how much freedom consumers will have to record programs and whether cable operators will be able to shut down devices unilaterally in the name of security. In addition, Smith said, CableLabs' specifications "basically put in an off switch" that could stop set manufacturers from offering program guides and related services.
"What the retailers and manufacturers have said ... [is]: 'We're not going to do that under those conditions. We can't make money that way,"' Smith said.
A larger question is whether consumers want to invest in a converter box or digital-ready TV before the cable industry figures out what kinds of services it wants to offer digitally. For example, a box that has no storage capacity won't be much use if cable operators start offering downloadable music.
Nor have the cable operators figured out yet whether to subsidize the boxes, as their competitors in the satellite TV industry do. An unsubsidized digital cable box could cost $300, which is more than consumers pay for the average TV set.
Jon Healey covers the convergence of entertainment and technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subject: Matsushita preps 100GB DVD
Matsushita Electric Industrial develops a two-sided optical rewritable disc that can store 100GB
October 19, 2001 - Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial has developed a two-sided optical rewritable disc that can store 100GB. The technology used would make DVD compatibility difficult, but Matsushita hopes the format will be used for the next generation of DVD discs.
The disc could store more than two hours of high-definition video and could also be used for data. Matsushita said it would present its research on Friday at the International Symposium on Optical Memory in Taipei, Taiwan. Mainstream DVDs store about 4.7GB per disc.
Matsushita's disc is dual-layer and double-sided, with a capacity of 50GB on each side. The company used a set of violet lasers with a wide numerical aperture (NA) of 0.85, which helps focus the light more tightly, and a thin 0.1 nanometer (nm) cover layer on the disc, the company said. The same technology has also been used by Hitachi in a development project and in the DVR-Blue recordable disc format created by Sony and Phillips Electronics.
DVR-Blue and other methods using blue or violet lasers aren't compatible with current DVDs, but they factor in the debate over the next-generation recordable DVD standard.
Other companies are also working on ultra high capacity discs. Constellation 3D expects its partners, including Plasmin, to next year ship products based on its Fluorescent Multi-layer Disc (FMD) technology, which in its first generation will allows CD-sized discs to store up to 100GB of data. Second-generation FMD technology, using blue lasers, is expected to increase this figure to 1 terabyte.
Subject: COFDM performed as expected
Actually better. One particular incident comes to mind.
A conference was being held in the sub basement of a hotel. The room had no windows. I cautioned that there was probably no signal there hence no reception. Plugged in a small portable TV. Attached the HiTop receiver plus cable with crinkly handmade bowtie antenna (fractal snowflake design-kidding). Instant reception. Proceeded to whip antenna overhead like a lasso (pictures later). No loss of reception. Giddiness all round. Canadian participants though COFDM proponents hadn't witnessed COFDM reception.
Drove through downtown Toronto with simple non-directional antenna and suffered loss of reception once for ten feet as we entered second basement garage. 30 miles north of Toronto at 73 mph (arbitrary speed) at 3500 watts transmitter power, perfect reception.
Demonstrated DVT-A1 PCMCIA card for first time in world. Could receive data and video at same time but couldn't display video. Video had to be saved and played back. Software problem that will be fixed for IBC in Amsterdam.
Talked to broadcasters and members of CRTC the Canadian organization responsible for directing the transition to DTV. The broadcasters we talked to said that there were no pro 8-VSB broadcasters in Canada. Some were mute on the subject and the rest were pro COFDM. One broadcaster who sets on the ATSC committee said the problem come from the fact that the majority vote in the ATSC is held by non broadcasters and non technical types.
CRTC members agreed that all pressure was coming from CEA members. Both broadcasters and CRTC members thought that CEA attitude was short sighted and directed at selling HDTV monitors with their large gross profit margins.
I think Canada will opt for at least allowing COFDM which sans MSTV test fraud would have been possible in the US. First Canada will delay and then they will delay and then things will probably be different.
One broadcaster said that if COFDM had been allowed in the US and therefore in Canada he would already be on the air with it in Toronto, happily. Toronto looks like on and off COFDM test till October 2002. Maybe an 8-VSB type will show up to challenge COFDM by then but I doubt it. No non-disclosures or curtains on the windows.
Subject: Commision Tackles Cabel Ownership Rule
October 29, 2001 - Today the Federal Communications Commission is expected to launch a rulemaking focusing on cable system ownership limits, a move that comes after an appeals court struck down the agency's original regulations last spring.
Part of the rules may put a limit on the number of subscribers a cable company can serve across the nation. Previous FCC rules prohibited cable companies from serving more than 30 percent of all pay TV subscribers in the United States.
In March, the regulations were thrown out on First Amendment grounds by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. AT&T and Time Warner Entertainment challenged the rules in court. After the appeals court made its move, the FCC along with the Justice Department decided not to appeal the decision.
The FCC will tackle the cable ownership rules at its regularly scheduled meeting set to take place at its Portals headquarters in Washington, D.C., today. A spokesperson confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the meeting will take place as scheduled.
The logjam is broken!!!!
Congratulations are in order to NBC. While a pioneer with the Tonight Show that was early with color and stereo, their HD was a precursor of what was to come. I am sure other programs will appear on NBC in HD in the near future.
The logjam is broken!!!!
No need to wait further to buy an HD receiver. To quote CBS "It's all here" waiting for us to enjoy. Why wait a minute longer. Go to Sears, Circuit City, Best Buy and the other leading dealers in television receivers."
By Larry Bloomfield
With all the mergers and acquisitions happening, it's getting to the point where you can't tell the players without a program. I had DirecTV for nearly five years. When I moved back to Oregon and knew there was no DSL, and being the self-indulgent person that I am, just wouldn't put up with a 56k modem that worked at something less than that. I had only one choice: the Dish Network and their StarBand service.
The test that I've performed on the StarBand service rates it at better than the DSL speeds I was getting while still down in Silicon Valley. I have no regrets and would recommend it highly.
To keep the costs down, I also changed over to the Dish Network for my satellite service, when I made the move. I was paying $45 to Verizon for the DSL service and $15 to a local ISP to have the hookup. My monthly bill for the StarBand comes in with my Dish bill and is $60 for the satellite link. The ping time is a little long, but what can you expect for a 44,600-mile path before it hits the Internet? With the news in our lead story, it would appear that I've come full circle. All I can do is wish them luck and hope that what has proved to be a very good service to continue to improve.
It will probably be a very long time before digital cable ever sees the light of day here on the Oregon coast and I have an inherent distain for Cable anyhow, after seeing what they did to my signal back in the days when I was a Chief Engineer.
My next move is to get an HD receiver so I can see what it is my partner in this effort is talking about. Jim Mendrala recently made the change over to the Dish Network so he could get StarBand in his rural area of Los Angeles County. He got the HD receiver, but since he doesn't have an HDTV monitor/receiver, he uses the 480 line output to his Sony receiver/monitor. He's been driving me crazy with the quality reports that the CBS HDTV shows have over the rest of the service. His only complaint is that the remainder of the HD on the other networks hasn't found its way to Dish ------- YET. Hello out there.
As to Echo Star's offer to feed HD into markets where stations haven't made the leap to digital, it would be stupid to say no. It would certainly help the set makers move product.
On another topic, I live in the Eugene, OR DMA. Since I cannot receive a grade B contour signal from any of the Eugene stations or translators, I qualify, and have, full satellite network programming from both the East and West Coast of the four major networks and then some. My only complaint is that I know both DirecTV and Dish have local-into-local for the Portland, OR DMA. I don't understand why I'm forced to watch Los Angeles program when Portland is of far greater interest.
Please understand that I'm only mentioning this because there is no doubt in my mind that there are others who have a similar situation: having to watch Network feeds from stations far removed from their area when a local-into-local closer would be of greater interest. May be it's all an insidious plot to wean us all from the boob tube. Fat chance! Later.
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