[opendtv] Re: New transition web site

  • From: Mark Aitken <maitken@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 05 Mar 2007 16:28:24 -0500

Interesting that you say the networks appear the least enthusiastic..

Read this through...you think WE are trying to hold things up, ask CBS what their position is!

(from a daily e-mail available at http://insightmedia.info/newsletters.php)

Display Daily - March 5, 2007 - THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL...



   March 5, 2007

   By Pete Putman

...is probably an oncoming train, according to Bob Ross, vice president for CBS' east coast operations. Ross spoke at New Jersey Network's facilities in Trenton, NJ last Thursday night during the Philadelphia SMPTE chapter's monthly meeting, and his subject was the fast-approaching terrestrial analog TV shutdown date of February 17, 2009.

More specifically, Ross provided some interesting statistics that show there just isn't enough time left until "D-Day" to (a) install upgraded and back-up antennas and (b) order new and/or backup transmitters.

Given that there are a limited number of qualified tower crews to perform the "high-wire" work and only two summers left in which to do it, there is going to be a mad scramble for manpower. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are only three manufacturers of DTV transmitters serving the US market, and they simply won't be able to fill all of the orders in time.

There are numerous other problems below the radar of TV station general managers that must be resolved over the next 24 months. One big one is the lack of technical training in monitoring 8VSB signals and MPEG program streams, something many stations simply ignore in the current dual-cast environment.

You'd be surprised how many stations don't have a simple DTV receiver ($179) and transport stream monitoring software (about $400) in their master control rooms. Perhaps that's understandable - many stations don't even have full-time engineering staffs anymore (too expensive!).

How about closed captions? NTSC uses EIA608-standard captions; ATSC uses EIA708 captions. How will local stations convert and feed those captions for cable and DBS head-ends? For that matter, how will local stations take an SDTV network feed and get it to those same head-ends, when CBS and other networks plan to shut down SDTV feeds later in 2009 in favor of a single HD feed? (Hey, transponders are expensive!)

Another big headache is digital audio. You'll find as many different settings for dialogue normalization ("dial-norm") as there are DTV stations in a given market, so when will everyone get on the same page technically? How about converting Dolby Digital 5.1 to ProLogic 2.0 for SD feeds? How many stations are using the Dolby-E digital audio transport protocol correctly, or even at all?

What about metadata embedded in TV programs and commercials - will it be handled and passed along correctly? Will all DTV stations ever transmit full Program and System Information Protocol (PSIP) data, including captions, program ratings, and electronic program guide with extended text descriptions?

Right now, DTV operations seem to be an afterthought to many TV stations - a light that someone left on in a utility shed, way out back on the property. If it burns out, so what? Where's the harm? Who's really watching, anyway?

According to Ross, any "harm" will become glaringly evident to general managers after 2/17/09 when a given station experiences a DTV transmitter malfunction, MPEG transport stream screw-up, or dropped/incorrectly-mixed audio, all of which will force advertising "make goods" that cost plenty of money.

The most discouraging thing about his presentation is that it will probably require 3+ years to fill all of the hundreds of yet-to-be-placed orders for DTV transmitters and antenna work. (CBS has one rigging crew booked for a full year, just to do antenna work on San Francisco's Sutro antenna tower!)

In the good old days, the most important person at any TV station was the chief engineer (CE). Even GMs deferred to whatever the CE asked for. Today, CE's are often paid lip service, or largely ignored - that is, if there even is a CE on staff any more and the station's engineering functions haven't been outsourced.

Are we headed for a train wreck in two years? Sure looks like it, unless the FCC and Congress extend the cut-off date one more time, an eventuality Ross said is extremely unlikely to happen. The DTV Express is just going too fast to stop now...

Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
Mark Aitken wrote:

We have every plan in place to retire our old flag (NTSC) in
return for the new one (ATSC). This is why we have been
working so very hard!!! Let's be done with it!


For what it's worth, the stations on the air now, in this market, which
IMO make effective use of ATSC are:

1. Your WBFF-DT, with an interesting multicast stream.

2. PBS stations, in particular WETA-DT, which has 4 streams to choose
from. Always something interesting in that mix.

3. The independent MHz Networks, with 4 eclectic multicasts. Always
entertaining as well, with a strong international flavor. If I have
nothing recorded, that's always a good multiplex to browse.

4. There's also a Pax station with at least 4 streams (6 numbered), but
not really up my alley.

Aside from these choices, mostly what you get is the same thing as NTSC
(better quality, of course), and some sort of weather channel or weather
radar picture. And a few stations don't offer any multicast at all. The
major network affiliates are *for the most part* the least
"enthusiastic," as far as I can tell.

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<>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>
Mark A. Aitken
Director, Advanced Technology
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Sinclair Broadcast Group
10706 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
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"As far as the laws of mathematics
refer to reality, they are not certain,
and as far as they are certain,
they do not refer to reality."

------- Albert Einstein-------


"I like nonsense---it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.
It's a way of looking at life through the
wrong end of a telescope...and that enables
you to laugh at all of life's realities."

~ ~ Theodor S. Geisel, a.k.a. "Dr. Seuss" ~ ~


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