New FCC news

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Christopher Bosley, Jan 22, 2001.

  1. Christopher Bosley

    Christopher Bosley Stunt Coordinator

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    Check out this link:
    dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010122/tc/media_digitaltv_dc_1.html
    What's the consensus? I think it will be good in the long run in that it will provide a disincentive to stations to simply chop up their single hi def channel into multiple lower def feeds.
     
  2. James David Walley

    James David Walley Stunt Coordinator

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    It will do nothing of the sort -- this decision doesn't even address the issue of splitting up digital signals into multiple programming streams. When this FCC decision refers to "multiple station offerings," it simply means that, at least until 2006, cable companies don't have to carry the HDTV signal of any station if they already handle the standard analog signal.
    For example, here in Seattle, the NBC affiliate is broadcasting its normal signal on channel 5, and its HDTV signal on channel 39. HDTV advocates were pushing for the FCC to rule that the "must carry" laws require cable systems to carry both channel 5 and channel 39. The FCC decided not to require this -- as long as the old channel 5 is being carried, they ruled, cable systems don't have to carry the hi-def signal on channel 39. Users with HDTV sets will have to receive the hi-def channel over the air (almost impossible in the hilly Seattle suburbs), not via cable.
    In essence, the FCC is saying that cable companies only have to carry a DTV (of any resolution) signal if it comes from a brand-new station that never had an analog signal in the first place. Since most metropolitan areas already have the major networks in place, and most of their VHF channels already allocated, only a handful of such situations are likely anywhere in the country.
    Since the eventual success of HDTV is dependent on it being available via cable (used by a majority of U.S. homes), and since most of the major cable companies have indicated a total unwillingness to carry HDTV unless ordered to do so by the FCC, this decision is a considerable blow to hopes for a rapid spread to HDTV. Note that the spokesman for the decision was Michael Powell, who Mr. Bush just appointed as the chairman of the Commission for the next four years, and who is known as a proponent of "letting the market decide" without control from government. In other words: don't look for the FCC to do anything concrete to pick HDTV out of its current doldrums.
     
  3. Christopher Bosley

    Christopher Bosley Stunt Coordinator

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    Nonetheless, even channels that are currently analog WILL have to convert to digital at some point in the future. If their only option of being carried on cable systems is one "slot," then it would be economic to make the digital conversion to a single hi-def transmission, not multiple low def transmissions only one of which would be carried on the local cable system.
     
  4. James David Walley

    James David Walley Stunt Coordinator

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    I still don't think you understand -- even if they split up the digital bandwidth into multiple channels, it would still show up as one digital bitstream, hence one "slot." This FCC ruling has zero to do with that issue, and won't affect it one way or the other. The only practical effect this ruling has, or will have in the near future, is that cable companies can still refuse to carry HDTV broadcasts from local stations as long as they are transmitting the NTSC analog signal for that channel.
     
  5. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    Essentially, the FCC has decided that the cable industry doesn't have to participate in the transition to digital television. 2/3 of the homes in the U.S. have cable, but the cable industry is excused from taking part in the transition. A transition that Congress has defined as not being complete until 85% of the homes are viewing digital signals. That's going to be some trick getting digital TV into 85% of the homes when cable is the gatekeeper that won't let digital TV into 2/3 of the homes.
    The current law that requires analog must-carry contained language that said cable companies would be required to carry only the "primary video" of a TV signal (I didn't know there was any such thing as "secondary video"). Although the FCC refused to enact must-carry for digital TV, they did take the time to apply the definition of "primary video" to digital TV to mean that if a DTV station transmits 3 or 4 SDTV programs at once, the cable company has to carry only one of them (provided of course they're not already required to carry the NTSC signal instead).
    Everyone believes that this new Republican-heavy FCC is going to be laissez faire, letting the industry run rampant with no regulation? Funny, I didn't notice that the last eight years of a Democrat administration's FCC accomplishing anything more significant than during the 12 Republican years prior to that. So what you're saying is that it's going to be even worse.
    I'm expecting Congress to rattle the FCC's cage, but I don't trust that they'll have consumers in mind and when the dust settles we may not have satisfaction.
    Remember the fuss two years ago from all the people who had illegal subscriptions to the networks on satellite and were going to lose them? They fussed to Congress, and Congress did something about it. I think everyone who is dismayed by the situation of digital TV and cable needs to fuss at their members of Congress.
     
  6. James David Walley

    James David Walley Stunt Coordinator

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