Strange blog. Surely, the ATSC 1.0 transition was far more important than this
"maybe will happen, or maybe not" new transition to ATSC 3.0, and yet ATSC 1.0
was a best-kept secret for years and years AFTER broadcasting had already
begun. And not just that, but ATSC 1.0 receivers were overly expensive if you
could even find them at all, until mandated. Let's get real. The only time we
saw any amount of inventory, for ATSC 1.0 STBs, was in the late spring/summer
of 2009. Broadcasting had begun on November 1998.
On broadcast channels, you will see a zillion ads for all of the MVPDs, mostly
those that don't even operate in your neighborhood, but just how many ads do
broadcasters transmit for OTA TV? Anyone ever see an ad for ATSC 1.0, between
1998 and 2009? I don't remember a single one, in that decade plus. Has anyone
ever seen an ad for ATSC 3.0? I sure haven't. Why point the finger at
"newspapers"? Of course the newspapers ignore all of this, if the broadcast
From the outside looking in, I'd expect such news blackouts to be deliberate.
And then there's more: the voluntary aspect.
The FCC's "stand passively by, allowing voluntary implementation as long as you
meet OET-69" is about as uncommitted as anything the FCC can do. It means
almost nothing, to users or to CE vendors. No reason to be trumpeting this
decision as being instrumental. And I still don't see any articles which
explain the acceptance of ATSC 3.0 among broadcasters, other than Sinclair. Do
others shudder at the thought?
Even if ads for ATSC 3.0 were being aired, the history of voluntary
"replacement" broadcast standards is abysmal. (To belabor, I'm talking about
broadcast standards that attempt to displace or augment an incumbent standard,
on a voluntary basis.) Analog stereo AM was at best a curiosity for radio
nerds. HD Radio was advertised quite a bit, but it is almost as difficult to
find on store shelves as ATSC 1.0 was, pre-2007. Is anyone even transmitting
ATSC 2.0 anymore? And beyond all of this, let's not forget that we are talking
about a by-appointment broadcast scheme only. What happened to DVB-H? The
on-demand TV aspects already exist, are already very well-known, and used, by
ATSC 1.0 only happened because the Michael Powell FCC finally mandated it, to
move Ch 52-69 from TV to cellular. CE vendors were happily ignoring ATSC 1.0,
until then. And consumers were clueless about it too, for years. Déjà vu all
Getting The Word Out To The Viewers
'.You've got to tell them'
April 20, 2017
By James O'Neal
ALEXANDRIA, VA.-If you know me, you know I like to talk, and one of the main
topics of discourse is television. While such conversations are no problem with
my friends within the television community, I almost always experience a very
severe "disconnect" when attempting to communicate on the subject with "lay"
I'm not talking "deep techno" here such as compression or transmission
modulation schemes, but rather basic perception about what's going on in the TV
broadcast world. Continuing to amaze me is the total "blank" that's drawn when
I mention ATSC 3.0, as well as the revelation to those mostly in their 40s and
younger, that television reception is available "free" for the taking. I have
to blame the media for this. Even the recent revelation that the FCC had given
the nod to ATSC 3.0 transmissions was either ignored completely by the
newspapers or relegated to just a few lines on the business or entertainment
page. (I'm not sure that it made the evening news on most TV stations either.)
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Many years ago (50 to be exact), I was a fulltime college student working
part-time in broadcasting to help defray some of my educational expenses. One
of the operations I worked for then was part of a small group of stations with
its corporate offices in Oklahoma City. The owner, who referred to himself as
"Big Jack," had a slogan that was emblazoned on just about everything connected
with his stations: news cars, ballpoint pens, giveaway rain ponchos and pocket
protectors; you name it. His message was given its greatest visibility at the
Oklahoma City studio and transmitter site, where it was spread across two
nearly block-long fences surrounding the compound. It read:
"Big Jack says if you want to sell them, you've got to tell them!"
The pitch, of course, was to encourage advertisers to place their commercial
messages on one or more of his stations.
"Big Jack" is long gone, but his message is as true now as it was half a
century ago, and seems very applicable in terms of informing the masses about
what's going on in broadcast television.
A BIG AND POWERFUL DAILY REMINDER
This was brought home recently when I had occasion to visit Baltimore and pass
by the city's "Television Hill." (For those of you not familiar with Maryland's
largest city, it is the site of the world's first implementation of a
"candelabra" TV antenna installation, with multiple transmitting antennas
supported on a platform atop a single tower. Placed into service in 1959, the
candelabra is located at the highest point in Baltimore and is used by a number
of television stations. [Another tower was later erected on the "Hill" to
accommodate additional transmitting installations.])
Although Television Hill is a very visible city landmark and is located
adjacent to a major arterial into Baltimore traveled by thousands of vehicles
each day, there is no signage to indicate exactly what it is and/or what takes
place there. If you ask the man or woman on the street, they would likely tell
you that it has something to do with television, but in this age of cable,
satellite, and Internet-delivered TV, that's about it.
It occurred to me that Baltimore's television broadcasters seem to be missing
the boat in terms of promoting "free TV" and heralding the introduction of ATSC
What a great location for an outdoor billboard similar to that erected by "Big
Jack" in Oklahoma City at his transmitter site! The signage might read:
"Baltimore Broadcasters invest more than $XXX each year at this site to provide
you with free television. Learn more about this and what's coming soon to
provide even better viewing experiences. Visit www.xxxyyyxxx for complete
Such exposure need not be confined to Baltimore. There are similar highly
visible transmitter sites in other localities as well. Broadcasters should be
using these to promote their services and to inform the public about "what's
next" in television. To do otherwise is indeed a big "missed opportunity."
"If you want to sell them, you've got to tell them!"
James O'Neal is the former technology editor for TV Technology.
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