Published by: Larry Bloomfield & Jim Mendrala
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DTV Tech Note - 032
does what it can -- Genius does what it must!
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goes to the Movies
By: Jim Mendrala
(ED Note: Jim is preparing a report on
the most recent Star Wars Movie. He saw it 3 times:
the film, the Hughes-JVC and the TI-DLP versions. It will
be in our next issue.)
Subj: Stirring the Satellite Legislation Pot
By: Larry Bloomfield
The very first nation wide, large scale, regularly
scheduled digital television broadcast service, for general public
consumption, here in the United States has been the services offered
by any of the several Satellite broadcasters, such as DirecTV, PrimeStar,
EchoStar, etc. Tuesday morning, June 15th, I sent
out an e-mail to everyone on our DTV Tech Notes mailing list about
the current legislation being formulated in congress that will determine
what network and local television material subscribers to these
kinds of Direct-to-home Satellite services will be permitted to
receive. Included in that posting was a list of the senators
on the conferee committee and a sample letter expressing my personal
point of view on the matter. Since you all received it, I
will not duplicate it here. (if you want a copy, e-mail me.)
Well, did I ever stir up a hornet's nest with
that June 15th letter! At least we know someone is reading
our material. The following are two responses to that posting
from gentlemen whom I have nothing but the highest professional
respect and regard for. I believe their positions, though
different from mine, deserve equal time.
Subj: New Satellite Home Viewer's act.
From: P. Eric Dausman >> email@example.com
(Ed Note: Eric
is Director of Broadcast Operations & Engineering at the NBC
affiliate, KGW Channel 8, in Portland, OR)
It's clear you
are not interested in helping the industry that is pays your salary.
Local into local is the answer. Newspapers are not regulated by
the Federal Government. They are not mandated to spend their money
to convert to a new digital standard, and they are not mandated
to carry children's programming, and they are not mandated to give
favorable rates to political candidates. You are not comparing apples
to apples. This is essentially a Copyright and exclusivity rights
question. Companies that pay for such rights in this country should
be afforded that protection. It is protected by our constitution.
If you purchased
a McDonald's franchise you would not be happy with McDonalds if
after a year or two of operation, they sold another McDonald's franchise
across the street from you. It is exactly the same. If you purchase
exclusivity, you should get it. These rights are protected in this
country. If your satellite carrier wants to compensate us for each
viewer that they steal from our exclusive franchise that we paid
for, then fine.
P. Eric Dausman
From: Roy Trumbull >> firstname.lastname@example.org
(Ed Note: Roy
is Asst. Chief Engineer at the NBC affiliate, KRON Channel 4, in
I'm afraid the waiver business
is more complex than either of us might suspect. It has to do with
copyrights and networks. If you get the OK to watch NBC on Direct
TV and it comes out of New York or LA, then you are seeing spots
intended for another market. The network losses control over its
ability to sell markets to advertisers. To them, it's a big deal.
The local TV
station is like a soft drink bottler with a franchise for that product.
If the franchise holder at the other end of the state can come in
and raid your customers, then what's the use of the franchise? The
local viewer doesn't see the local market commercials, which is
all a local TV
station has to
And have the
satellite providers entered into a contract with the networks and
paid them a head count fee for distribution to the copyright holders?
I think not.
The intent of
SHVA was that someone without any local TV service would be able
to get the networks. But it's been stretched beyond recognition
because the satellite providers sold imported network service in
the local station's grade A contour. Never mind about grade B. Now
all that is a God given right.
The only good
thing about the SHVA (Satellite Home Viewers Act) before Congress
is that the door has been opened for satellite carriage of local
television. This is the so-called "local into local."
It should defuse the issue.
Still open is
the issue about how service can be granted to viewers who are mobile
and tour the country in an RV or live on a boat. There's no provision
is what about usage of your TV signal from satellite in a community
way beyond your grade B contour? Remember, you only paid the syndicator
a fee to use programming within your local area. You don't have
super station rights to the programming. But once you're on the
bird, you've pretty much lost control. I happen to know that one
hotel in Anchorage has San Francisco stations on their TV system.
Here's a whole
new career for someone to go and bust commercial locations using
unlicensed copyrighted material ala BMI and ASCAP. I think there
already is a sports bar gumshoe who busts sports bars and makes
them pay a license fee to the networks.
One man's free
is another man's income
(ED Note: After seeing a similar response
to the one below, we received this second e-mail a few days later.)
I expect that
most of the sales of TV stations in the top 20 markets will be to
the networks. That is because, what with the take-back of avails
(Fox), the economics point to dumping the network. The networks
only choice is to buy.
We started a
bit of a storm with Bay-TV and its local content (San Francisco).
Took awhile but it caught on. Picture a station in Chicago dumping
the net and going local. The locals see all the net deals with cable
and satellite. The may be dumb but they're not that dumb.
My point is,
from a TV station standpoint, localism works. I was up in British
Columbia and I picked up the newspaper. I searched and searched
but was hard pressed to find any evidence of this place called the
United States a few miles to the South.
for Satellite Home Delivery--IMPORTANT
From: Steve Ortmann >> SteOrt@aol.com
(Ed Note: The following was sent to me
as a blind courtesy copy (BCC) of a letter one reader e-mailed to
the list of senators. I don't know Mr. Ortmann, personally.
He lives and works in Kansas.)
As you ponder
the home delivery legislation for satellite television, please consider
that any citizen can purchase a magazine, newspaper, or book anywhere
in the country. This freedom is important to all of us. Americans
should also have the same rights with respect to television. We
should be able to view any television station that the satellite
carriers elect to present. This will only encourage better programming,
and better product. Let the free market take care of itself, don't
legislate and "protect".
Thank you for
I've been writing professionally now for sometime.
Never in that time, when expressing my personal points of view,
have I ever deluded myself into thinking that any or all of my readers
would either agree or disagree with me. I would like to make
clearer my views on this subject and answer some of the issues these
folks have raised. I hope you'll stick it out to the end.
It is interesting to note that NBC, like the
other networks, does provide the local programs of their owned and
operated stations in New York (WNBC-TV) and Los Angeles (KNBC-TV)
to the satellite services. NBC is, however, the only network
that cuts out all local advertising from those stations and sells
the time to other advertisers. Call 'em up. You can buy it,
if you are so inclined.
With respect to copyright and franchise, it is
interesting to note that all Associated Press, United Press International,
King Feature Syndicate and other services to newspapers are copyrighted.
Newspapers even carry advertisements for national products through
local vendors. Does this mean those newspapers that carry
this copyrighted material or advertising can't be taken outside
the area where the paper is published?
Franchises, in most cases, means that you get
to use a corporate name and carry their products or offer their
services. There are many legal precedence set that demonstrate
if someone can come up with the pesos, they can open up another
"franchise" nearly next door to one that's been there
for years. The older franchise can squawk, but it usually
doesn't do much good and the legal-beagles end up with more of everybody's
money than they deserve. We've even seen this in broadcasting.
ABC has two stations covering the same DMA in the San Francisco
Bay area; KGO-TV channel 7 (an O&O) and KNTV channel 11 (an
affiliate) a few miles down the bay. These kinds of things
are rare, but they do happen and I've not heard that either one
of these two stations are going broke!
Many people are in this business for years and
still don't seem to understand how commercial broadcasting works.
They seem to think that local TV stations sell local commercials.
If this is true then why do we live and die by ratings - Ratings
make no sense at all, but yet we live and die by them. Broadcasters
DO NOT SELL TIME (SPOTS)! THEY SELL VIEWERS -- LISTENERS to
advertisers. Our product is listeners/viewers. After
all, isn't it listeners/viewers that fill out the diaries?
Besides, who in their right mind wants to buy air? (It may not be
clean anymore, but so far it's still free.) Advertisers want
people, not air, to hear/see their message.
What does this big dumb engineer know about this?
I had to do research and prepare training sessions and presentations
on a product a former employer was trying to put together in the
area of air time sales. Almost to the number, none of the
people at that company has ever been inside a TV station and they
too thought stations sold airtime; not eyes and ears.
I know this is a technical forum, but isn't it
also about our jobs? If our audience goes elsewhere for entertainment
our jobs will go with them. Satellite service is digital and
that's why we're addressing this issue. One of the comments
made was to the effect that I don't know where my bread is buttered.
When working at a TV station, I've never lost sight of the fact
that it's buttered by the viewer/listener, not the advertiser.
What ever the engineers do, must be, in all instances, transparent
to the viewers or you'll loose them. If the station doesn't
have any viewers why would someone want to advertise on it?
I'm not talking out of both sides of my mouth!
Yes, I want local-into-local, but I also want the option to watch
anything else my satellite service can get to me, even if I have
to pay extra for it. I think it's neat that a guy in Alaska
can watch San Francisco programming. We do have some good
local shows here. By the same token, I'd like to option to
watch other NBC stations besides New York and Los Angeles.
Another issue is that broadcasters shoot themselves
in the foot regularly by moving successful shows all over to compete
with other successful shows. An associate of mine said that
he has given up watching television because what he wants to watch
isn't there; it keeps moving. He said he couldn't keep up
with it. And then he brought up the issue of reruns in the
middle of the season. We talk of local-into-local; if the programmers
don't make better strides at getting material that appeals to more
local audiences, none of us will have a job in the future of TV.
The face of television is changing. Networks,
as we know them, will be gone within a few years. A week doesn't
go by that there isn't a story on the wire services about network-affiliate
relations deteriorating. Stations like WAMI in Miami, FL and
KICU in San Jose, CA are just two examples of how successful programming
appears to be going. It is quite reminiscent of television
on the West Coast back in the early 50's, like KTLA, before the
transcontinental microwave system and the over regulation of our
industry. You want a local market? Despite my letter to senators,
so do I! I am a big believer in local broadcasting, not just
local spots. That's really what it's all about, but more than
that I believe in unrestricted choice.
Our mobile society demands that they watch what
they watch when they want to watch it and not at the whim of, or
when, some network or local programming executive says they have
to. All one has to do is look at the features being designed
into set top boxes. Everything from Internet, hard drive storage
for program material and much more. Wake up friends; it's here!
Take a look at the once very strong radio networks.
Where are they today? Radio stations today hold their own
based on local appeal and that is most likely the pattern that television
will follow. It is our job as broadcast engineers to get what ever
our stations and networks have to offer into the viewer and listener's
homes (or whatever) as transparently as possible and hope for the
best. What means we use is a whole other story.
Digital TV works. Satellite services have
proven that, but don't go into the average retail store that sells
DTV sets and expect to see anything that even remotely looks good.
Misinformation abounds at the various vendors of this new technology
(DTV and HD) and it's out of control. There are exceptions,
but they are few and far between. My many experiences and
those of most all I've spoken to indicate the demos are a disaster
which don't look any better than NTSC, in most cases.
One cannot help but wonder, however, if our transition
to terrestrial digital isn't going awry, in other ways as well.
Ways that may help kill television, as we know it. Tests are
proving daily (Sinclair) that those who have lead us to where were
at may have had other agendas, didn't properly test out what we're
implementing before it was cast into stone or just plain didn't
know what they were doing. First, seventy plus percent of
all TV viewers are connected to some kind of cable service.
Those who are not, for the most part, use indoor antennas.
This could be anything from rabbit ears to a coat hanger.
If you expect people to go out, put up a 30 foot antenna, which
will give them a definite may be mixed result, after spending over
five grand plus on a DTV set, then I would like to see if I could
interest you in a bridge I have for sale at a very good price.
Easy payments too.
Speaking of money, where is the FCC of a bygone
era that had the intestinal fortitude to develop our broadcast industry
into the technically finest on the planet. Their ability to generate
money has changed the face of the FCC into a department expected
to add to the revenue more than a department to be stewards of a
precious resource. They have become the money grubbing pawns of
governmental bean counters afraid of their own shadows when it comes
to setting technical policy and standards. The FCC is an arm
of the Government and the government seems to have evolved into
a business: The United States Government, Inc. Since we no
longer want to waste time on determining who is best qualified to
hold a broadcast license under PICAN (Public Interest, convenience
and Necessity) we'll determine it by auctions. Obviously those
with the most money are best qualified. Their deep pockets
prove this, right? FCC: Watchdog, Stewards?
As long as I'm on the subject of the FCC, remember
the FCC 1st, 2nd and 3rd
Phone and then the General class license? My ten-year-old
grandson or your five-year-old daughter, according to the FCC, is
fully qualified to work on any transmitter today. Once was
the day when you didn't get a job at a broadcast facility unless
you could fix what you operated and had an FCC license. Maybe we
should go back. May be have a required hands-on apprenticeship
program. The sad part about the way we do it now is that most engineers
don't know what they don't know.
Heresy you say? Perhaps! I love this
industry. I enjoy building, maintaining and operating broadcast
facilities, but I hate to see what is happening. Take a few
minutes from you very busy schedules and look around. Listen
to the viewers and I don't mean Neilson. General Sarnoff did
and he had a good thing going for a while.
My advice to friend and foe, supporter and detractor
of my opinions, alike, instead of being like an inductor that opposes
any and all change to the flow, why not see what you can do to make
the one thing in life that is a constant easier: CHANGE!
Get out the technical Vaseline and let's all have fun instead of
In closing, the sad part to all this is that
most readers won't have read this far. I'd really like to
know what all of you think about all this. I know I don't
have the answers and these are not the ramblings of an old man either;
just the observations of one who's taken the time to step out of
the forest to take assessment of the trees. And
no, I didn't have a bad day.
Subj: Whatever to do with the FAA.
By Burt I. Weiner
>> email@example.com <<
Remember, the story I recently wrote in the last
edition of the Tech Notes about the client station, the tower lights
and the FCC inspection? Well, there's more to this continuing
The tower light problem was corrected and the
FAA properly notified. I know, I called to report the repairs
myself. I spoke to a Mr. "Fuzzy Bear". I gave
the station's call letters and exact location per the FAA's wording.
Mr. Bear took the information and told me he'd report the repair.
He thanked me for letting them know and we hung up. Simple,
A few days later I received a call at home from
the FAA. They were going through their records and just wanted
to know what the status of the station's tower lights were.
I recall his exact question, "Have your tower lights been repaired?"
I proceeded to tell him what had been done and about my call to
Mr. Fuzzy Bear. The fellow I was talking to (this time) admitted
their record keeping wasn't the best in the world.
By the way, why did I get this call at home?
When I was trying to get this problem straightened out the first
time, I left my home number for the supervisor to call me back.
He did, and he understood it was my home number. That, they
managed to log and not lose!
There's one last hope. Next time you need
to report a tower light problem, follow up your phone call with
a registered letter. In Los Angeles their address is:
Hawthorne Flight Service
12111 S. Crenshaw Boulevard
Hawthorne, CA 90250
ATTN: NOTAM Position - Operation Floor
Don't forget the return receipt. When you
pay for the return receipt, the Postal Clerk should give you a "receipt
for certified mail". Attach the receipt along with a
copy of the letter to your station log. When you receive the
signed returned receipt in the mail attach it your station log along
with the letter and original receipt.
Check with your
local FAA office for the reporting point, phone number and mailing
address nearest your station.
Report the repair by telephone and letter.
What could be simpler. Only time will tell.
Since I originally wrote this article we've had
to register our towers using coordinates. The FAA still wants
to know the actual location in bearing and distance from a navigational
aid because pilots navigate by these aids, not necessarily coordinates.
Burt I. Weiner
Subj: Standard Definition
(SDTV) Production on the Rise
(Ed Note: The
following SCRI note is our way of saying thanks for them letting
us use their web site.)
SCRI's new 1999/2000
Broadcast and Professional Video Marketplace Trends Survey asked
broadcast and production facilities by when they expect to be doing
standard definition television (SDTV) production.
Over one in three
facilities are already doing SDTV production. By the year 2001,
almost seven in ten (67.5%) expect to be doing SDTV production.
With 17% currently unsure, these numbers are likely to be even higher.
and production facilities are moving quickly to gear up for enhanced
digital production. Our survey data shows that this is also being
reflected in increased purchases of digital equipment " commented
SCRI's Research Director, Des Chaskelson.
provides manufacturers with a roadmap of the shifting Broadcast
and Professional Video Marketplace as we move into the new millennium.
The report tracks all the key technology issues, like DTV, video
networking and transport, video formats, equipment budgets and production
activity trends, incidence of traditional and new video applications
like webvideo and CD-ROM and DVD Production."
The new report
also includes a special Brand Familiarity and Performance Rating
section, and compares the new results with the prior '97 data. Twenty-two
major manufacturers are rated on perceived performance for "product
quality" and "service." A ranking of the level of
familiarity of each brand is also provided. See Table of Contents
Contact SCRI at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The DTV Tech Notes are published for broadcast
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DTV, HDTV, etc., by Larry Bloomfield and Jim Mendrala. We can be
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or fax at (661) 294-0705. (Note - Jim's new area code is 661).
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