Interesting reply from a local prog director about the nat'l CBS HD feed

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Dave Miller, Jan 19, 2004.

  1. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    My local CBS affiliate does not broadcast in HD and wont for at least another year. I was considering switching to satellite TV and in the process of researching found out Dishnetwork and now DirectTV offer a HD CBS feed to those who qualify. I talked w/ Dishnetwork and they say I don't qualify, then emailed the programming director of my local CBS affiliate to request a waiver and here was his response:



    Now I realize I don't live in a white area and I also know that my local CBS station is not O&O by CBS. But seems crazy to me that Dishnetwork and now DirectTV promote and offer a national CBS HD channel out of NY or LA and I can't get it. If my local affiliate was broadcasting in HD, I think I'd understand their refusal.

    When I asked Dishnetwork if I could get a UPN superstation since they carry all my locals but UPN, they said "No problem. You can get the Superstation package, or just pay $1.50/mo for UPN." I realize that the UPN feed is not HD, but why doesn't the same logic apply to CBS?

    This whole issue has held up my decision to jump to satellite since CBS has such a large amount of HD programing compared to the other networks. If my wavier had been approved, I would have pulled the trigger already.

    Any thoughts or clarifications would be appreciated.

    Peace,

    DM
     
  2. Michael St. Clair

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    The sad thing is they have no obligation to offer you a waiver. You can get their analog broadcast, and there is no FCC-granted 'right' to watch HDTV.

    They want you watching local commercials, and they don't care if that means they screw you out of watching HD.
     
  3. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Local eyeballs watching local commercials are what it's all about.

    The reason UPN is handled differently is because according to the government's definition of a network, UPN is not yet a network. SHVA applies only to network affiliates. The government defines a network as having a minimum number of affiliates and a minimum number of programming hours each week. While UPN has more than enough affiliates, the hours of programming comes up short. The same goes for WB. I believe Fox didn't cross over the threshold to gain official network status until they got the NFL contract.
     
  4. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    Thanks guys. I did not realize that UPN is not a "network" according to the government's definition. That is a piece that I didn't understand. Our local UPN is a low powered station, so by definition Dishnetwork does not have to carry it as a local under the "Must Carry" law.

    I guess what I'm still confused on is this judge's decision he mentions in the third paragraph that will...



    Is this a new ruling?

    Peace,

    DM
     
  5. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    "Distant CBS and FOX network" would refer to the NY or LA signals that you want to receive by satellite. Unless you live in an area where you can't receive your local CBS and Fox signals, it's illegal for DirecTV to allow you to subscribe to the distant signals. But there was a time a few years ago when DirecTV allowed it anyway, and DirecTV was sued for it and lost.

    Here's the long version if you're interested:

    Under copyright law, a satellite or cable provider cannot carry a channel without permission from the channel's owner. Copyright law considers the "retransmission" of television programming to be essentially the same as copying. However, the Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA) created an exception. It said that, for homes that are not served by a local affiliate of a given network (where "not served" means unable to receive a Grade B or better signal), the satellite company can offer the signal of a distant affiliate of the same network without having to get permission from the copyright owner. The purpose was to make it possible for rural folks to watch some form of network TV by satellite, while not stepping on the toes of the networks and their affiliates.

    The SHVA required the satellite companies to shoulder the burden of ensuring that the subscribers to these distant signals really are unserved by local signals. The satellite companies tried to fulfill their obligation by doing the most foolish thing: they simply asked potential subscribers if they could receive local signals. If the answer was "no", then they would activate a subscription to the distant signals. They just took the subscribers' word for it.

    It didn't take long before a lot of people were buying satellite dishes and giving the magic answer "no" (probably being coached by the installers or by other subscribers) in order to get the networks on satellite.

    However, the SHVA also required the satellite companies to provide to the networks a monthly list of new distant network subscribers' names and addresses. The networks looked at these lists and started noticing that people who were subscribing to distant networks lived in areas where they would have strong (Grade A or better) local signals. The networks confronted the satellite companies about their lax verification of the subscribers' eligibility, and the satellite companies more or less laughed it off.

    At a certain date (I believe it was 1/1/98 or maybe 1/1/97) a new clause in the SHVA activated itself, and it provided for the networks to seek a remedy by civil action. So the networks dragged the satellite companies into court and sued their pants off. It was for the most part an open and shut case, one of the most blatant examples of copyright infringement ever seen with no gray areas to argue. (Even Napster had gray areas to argue, as do Kazaa, 321 Studios, and ReplayTV in their pending suits.) And the networks already had all the evidence they needed to prove their case because the SHVA required the satellite companies to give it to them every month.

    The SHVA also specified what the penalties could be, and the most severe was for the satellite company to be blocked from retransmitting distant network signals to anyone in the country, whether or not they had Grade B signals.

    The judge didn't go that far, but instead ordered the satellite companies to dump only the illegal subscriptions. There were a lot of them, and for that matter they couldn't even be sure if any of them were legal without making the proper checks they should have already done in the first place. But the subscribers who had been enjoying their illegal subscriptions got mad (with some provocation by the satellite companies), and they raised a big fuss to Congress to bail them out. And Congress did, by passing the new Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) which made it possible for satellite to provide local-into-local service and granted a period of amnesty for the illegal subscriptions that were in areas worse than Grade A. The SHVIA also required the FCC to create a methodology for the satellite companies to use to predict subscribers' ability to receive Grade B signals to help determine whether they qualify for distant networks, and to create new procedures for obtaining waivers from the local network stations if reception is questionable.
     
  6. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    Excellent explanation. Thank you.

    I'm just going to have to wait then.

    Peace,

    DM
     
  7. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Eh, not so fast! Don't give up so soon!

    Last year, several stations asked the FCC for extensions to the HD switch, and they were all denied. You might want to see if your station was one of them.

    I also heard that the WS TV's will be on the market in July, and/or all TV's sold will have to have an HD input. I can easily see one part of your local station not knowing what other parts of it are doing. I'd check into it before quiting.

    Glenn
     
  8. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    Glenn,

    I'm not giving up. I'm just not making the jump to satellite TV right now or purchasing an OTA HD set top box. There are just not enough stations and/or programing in my area to do so.

    My local CBS affiliate was originally assigned a very high UHF number for their digital channel. They petitioned the FCC for a lower VHF channel and were granted channel 9. Apparently, an affiliate in an adjacent market wanted or used 9 and filed suit to keep this from happening. Now the FCC is in the process of clearing this up. Once that is done, my local affiliate tells me they will begin broadcasting in HD 12 months later.

    I am hopeful that the FCC will stick to their deadline for the switch to HD. I realize many people enjoy lots of HD channels in their area, but my "HD Ready" TV has been "ready" for far too long.

    Peace,

    DM
     
  9. DwightK

    DwightK Second Unit

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    Dave, you are still better off than I regarding HD. My CBS and NBC local networks installed the absolute minimum HD antennas (~250k) that only broadcast a digital signal less than 2 miles in radius which is the bare minimum required to satisify the upcoming deadlines. Neither of those channels have any intention of EVER increasing the range as the market is too small to justify the cost. Worse yet, the aforementioned NBC channel is bcast from a town 55 miles away and have NO intention of ever repeateing up to my city, the second largest in the state. For the same reason. FOX is just the NBC feed here...scratch fox. ABC here stated they will only install a HD antenna if so ordered by a court, otherwise they have no intention of ever transmitting HD.

    None will give any waiver of any kind. Ever.

    Oh what fun to live in a large, sparsely populated state, sometimes.
     
  10. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    July of this year is the deadline for the first phase of the FCC mandate for all new television sets to eventually include a digital tuner. Only the largest sets (I think 40" or larger) will be required to have digital tuners by July. Each year the noose will tighten to include smaller and smaller sets until even the little portable sets have digital tuners. I believe the final deadline is in 2007.

    But that has nothing to do with television stations' mandate to transmit digital television or with the eventual shut-off of analog television transmitters.

    I did some checking on WINK, and it is true, they were (and may still be) in a dispute over the use of channel 9 with stations in both Orlando and Miami. The Orlando station uses channel 9 for analog and the Miami station uses channel 9 for digital. The last information I have is that the FCC ruled that WINK could use channel 9 for digital because the interference it would cause to the others was within the limits set by the FCC regulations. That FCC decision was in November 2002.
     
  11. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    Wayne,

    Thanks for verifying my info. Wow! Orlando and Miami are two and a half hours away from Fort Myers. How in the world would there be interference? That really shocks me b/c I was told it was an adjacent market, so I'm thinking Sarasota.

    Peace,

    DM
     
  12. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Producer

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    I'm a DirecTV customer (got to love the DirecTV PVR) and I was thinking earlier today about how it stinks that customers don't have the freedom to choose between East and West Coast feeds.

    We live in what is basically a market driven economy; shouldn't these stations have to compete for our business?

    With the government protecting them at every turn why should they bother to put out the best product possible?
     
  13. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Channel 9 is VHF, and VHF signals can carry quite far, especially in Florida which due to its terrain is known for great signal propagation. The area where interference would be at its worst would be half way between the stations, 1 1/4 hours away from each.

    There was also a third station on channel 8 or 10 (not sure) in Tampa that complained about adjacent channel interference. If you're curious to know, the FCC rules say that stations can ask to increase transmitter power or change other parameters (or in special cases such as this, ask for a new channel assignment) and get approval as long as the interference to other stations is less than 2% of the population served by each station, but provided that no station has to suffer more than 10% total loss from a multitude of stations with each one nibbling away less than 2% each. WINK met the criteria, with the engineering studies showing that Miami would be affected by 0.66%, Orlando by 1.12%, and Tampa by 0.96%. This was a total of about 82,000 homes.

    Patrick, you have to keep in mind that despite a market driven economy, copyright holders still have to right to control how their copyrighted works are to be distributed, including limiting their availability, and to control who will distribute them. The networks have these freedoms.

    Your own freedom hasn't been limited. You have never had the right to subscribe to a channel that the cable or satco didn't have the right to retransmit to you. But you do have the right to receive any signal you can get direct over the air with a rooftop antenna. If your antenna can pick up a distant signal, then you can watch it as much as you want. That is your freedom.
     
  14. John S

    John S Producer

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    Keep in mind too, that the standard, I mean most prevelent broadcast power for DTV will be like 1 Million watts!!!

    And if they have isolated areas of no coverage with that, can apply for the blessing of out putting 1.5 million watts....


    Interference may very well become the most heated issue with it all over the long run, given those types of outputs.

    Line of sight gets you about 10miles from the current crop of 250k transmitters. If you don't have line of sight, the 2 miles or so is probably correct.
     
  15. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    I get good reception 10 miles away from a VHF DTV operating at 7 kilowatts and a UHF DTV operating at 18 kilowatts, both using an indoor set top antenna. But I can't receive the 3.3 kilowatt UHF DTV at all. That's not a problem because it's only a 480i simulcast of the analog signal, and it's at 6 megabits, the other 13 megabits are totally idle.
     
  16. John S

    John S Producer

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    Line of sight is everything on it.. With current low power trasmissions. Those are very low output transmitters, I was told most of the Downtown Denver feed are 250K watt. But then again, my source may have been flawed, but he did work for the ABC affiliate here.
     
  17. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    I think your source is mistaken. According to FCC records the Denver stations are running low power on special temporary authority (STA). The STA for KMGH is 1.91 kilowatts. Most of the others are running 10-14 kilowatts. Just about all of them have construction permits on file to eventually run a megawatt.
     
  18. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Producer

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    Wayne I never used the word "rights" but rather freedom of choice. In a true market driven economy the government should not make any regulations that hinder competition. The antiquated regulations that are protecting the local stations do nothing but hinder competition.

    By the way your argument about copyrights is totally off the mark. Local broadcast stations do not hold the copyrights or distribution rights to any of the network programs they carry as a network affiliate. So they are not protecting any copyrights by denying you an option but rather simply trying to force you to watch their station for their own special interests.

    In fact I would guess that if the truth be told the major networks (who do own the initial distribution rights) really don’t care if you watch an East Coast or West Coast signal since the commercials they sell will be watched by the viewer regardless of where the signal is from. That is probably why the only station in my market that is owned by a network always seems to grant everyone’s waiver request without question.

    Again what we are really talking about here our local stations using antiquated regulations in order to prevent competition. In the end the ones that lose are the consumers.
     
  19. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Totally off the mark? I think I've established in this thread that I am quite knowledgable on this subject. I'm not going to explain it further. Read the copyright laws for yourself.

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/ch1.html
     
  20. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    This isn't this government regulation, but the network protecting their affiliates. The government regulations forces them to open it up somewhat, so that everyone can get the station in some form. There isn't any mandate, tho, as to what form it should take.

    This is a similar issue to the Sunday Ticket issue a columnist made. If the game is being showed by a local network affiliate, Sunday Ticket is supposed to black out the game. Fine. Problem is, what if you want to watch a late game, and the previous game is running over? Basically, last year you were SOL. They are apparently working on it.

    Personally, I think you need to make your case to the networks themselves. They may or may not listen to you, but it is at least worth a try.

    Jason
     

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