FCC Moves Up The Deadline For TVs To Go Digital

from the small-steps dept

The FCC claims it’s serious about getting broadcasters to move to digital TV, and they’re trying to prove it. While politicians argue in Congress over the real date of a final move, the FCC has moved up the date by which all new mid-sized TVs need to be able received digital signals. The goal, of course, is to get more TVs in the hands of customers that can receive digital over the air signals so that fewer people are impacted by the eventual forced switch. This topic gets a lot of noise — and it’s a bit more complex than most make out. For people who have cable or satellite TV, this isn’t really much of an issue. It’s really for people who just get traditional over-the-air television — which is a small, but still vocal group. Congress has suggested even putting up $1 billion to help people transition, but to do that, the TVs really need to be there. While $1 billion may sound like quite a bit, the government will more than get that back (society too…) after the government then takes back some of the massive portions of spectrum the broadcasters own to auction it off and use it for much more useful purposes (such as wireless communications). Of course, at the same time, with the recent ruling saying that the FCC has no mandate over television equipment in the broadcast flag situation, it would be interesting to see some make the claim that they have no mandate over this issue as well. Of course, in this case, most people would flip sides. It’s the broadcasters (the big fans of the broadcast flag) who are against any speeding up of the transition to digital, because they want to keep that valuable spectrum (which was given to them for free) for as long as possible.


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Comments on “FCC Moves Up The Deadline For TVs To Go Digital”

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4 Comments
TV Geek says:

Um, not quite

Actually, us broadcasters would LOVE to go digital only. Supporting two signals suck. Redundant levels of equipment (including transmitters and antennas) is expensive, it puts an extra load on our towers, it costs us more in bills from electricity and servicing, and it just plain causes a ton of headaches.

Add to that the fact that digital gives us multiple channels to play with. We can’t WAIT until we can take advantage of those multiple channels. We’re chompin at the bit to use them. (“You mean we now have MORE channels to sell advertising on?? WOOHOO!!” *grin*) Problem is that (practically) nobody can view them right now.

Broadcasters are delaying the transition because we will lose viewers. The people who view us over-the-air are the same ones that (in many situations) can’t afford a new TV set in the first place. If you could get a digital receiver into every home in America that receives our signal over the air, no matter how that’s done, we’d finalize the move in a heartbeat.

Of course, that counts on the fact that we’ve finalized on a compression standard. I thought we had, but now the government is talking about changing the standard again (well, maybe…we don’t know actually). Gee, thanks guys.

If they could pick a standard that stays standard, get the hardware out there, and get it into everyone’s home, this would be a moot point. But there’s no way broadcasters are going to move unless all (or the right sized majority) of our customers can come with us. That just doesn’t make financial sense.

Ivan Sick says:

No Subject Given

“that valuable spectrum (which was given to them for free)”
Weren’t the broadcasters also given the digital spectrum for free?
Also, I have been wondering:
Will digital broadcast will be free to receive?
Will it require equipment other than a new compatible TV set, a la a cable box?
Will new HD sets be backwards compatible, and for how long?
TV Geek, maybe you can help me out?

TV Geek says:

Re: No Subject Given

Yeah, we got the spectrum for free. In fact, it’s pretty much the same spectrum that is alloted for analog TV. It’s just that it stops at channel 50 or so, where the existing spectrum goes up to the high 60s. That’s the portion that will be freed up by the shutting down of the analog signal.

Digital broadcasts will be free to receive. In fact you should be able to receive them right now (assuming your local stations are boardcasting their signal at a high enough power to get to you, which some are not doing right now due to costs).

It will require a digital receiver. Right now you can purchase them as an external box to hook up to any existing TV (even an old black and white if you want to for whatever reason), though this story refers to them being installed directly into the TV set like current analog receivers. If you get a set with the internal digital receiver, you won’t need an external box.

HD is a standard that sits on top of DTV, which has two standard streams (High Def and Standard Def). DTV in it’s standard form is still the same old 4:3 view that you’re used to. HD sets will be compatible with these types of feeds for a long time to come. I doubt you’ll have to worry about getting an HD set that isn’t capable of showing the 4:3 view.

Now, if you mean capable of picking up an analog OTA signal through an internal receiver, I’m not sure how much longer they’ll do that. I’m honestly not sure if you can pick up an HDTV that does that, or how many sets there are that do that. The whole advantage of the set is using it for digital broadcasts, so I would assume they would gear the entire TV set twords that.

See, this is what’s scary about this process. It seems almost nobody, except the people who have to keep up with this stuff every day because of their job, know exactly where we are at and what the transition’s going to mean. That’s a great environment to make a change like this. 😉

Ivan Sick says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Wow, thanks for all the answers, geek.
It’s great that DTV will be free, I was worried TV would become a “pay-only” service. Yes, I am part of the vocal minority that doesn’t have or want cable, satellite, or whatever else. “Rabbit ears,” DVD player, and games do fine for me.
Also good that DTV will still contain the SD signal; I’m not buying an HD set any time soon. (>160 for a TV is too much for me) And that HD sets will take SD, because when I do finally get one, I’ll still have my old games and movies; yes, I still use a VCR too.
Yes, I was wondering about picking up analog signal on a new set. It’s not a huge deal, there will probably some kind of box on the market to adapt the signal.
And you are absolutely right that the lack of transparency in this industry is a problem. I wouldn’t require an update on every conference on the subject *_(I probably don’t need to know about all the possible standards until the field’s narrowed down a bit)(Plus lots of people would probably bitch about changes being made before anything serious is actually even implemented)._* But I remember hearing in 2001 or 02 that by 2006 analog broadcast would no longer be used–and my questions about that have not been answered until now.

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