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My Two Cents.

Make note: ATSC and DVB standards were born obsolete! Television via Internet is now the key to the future.

In 1993, in the midst of the battle to standardize digital HDTV former FCC chairman Richard E. Wiley (then chairman of the Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service), in an attempt to keep the computer industry at bay, remarked, "I have to remind my friends in the computer industry that this is a broadcast standard."

Fast forward to March 1999. "What we can't tolerate at the FCC is strategic delaying tactics, "stated FCC chairman William E. Kennard, warning that the implementation of DTV could result in the FCC mandating a business plan outlining the evolution of the new technology.

What's happening here was predicted in 1993 by station group president Philip Lombardo, "Nobody's saying how we're going to make money at this. "As a result, some top-market TV stations have filed for extensions (mostly over tower issues), while those that already broadcast in HDTV claim their signals are received by some 40,000 TVHHs nationwide, even though the DTV signal from 69 stations now reaches 40 percent of the nation.

Today, by using line-doubling technology at the receiving end, there is no need to transmit HDTV, which takes up all 6MHz of TV bandwidth (19.39 Megabits per second in digital terms) and gets the same HDTV results. At this point, stations can use DTV to multicast up to four programs using its 6 MHz channel (as recently demonstrated by public TV station WETA). But this fix is resisted by the cable industry, which refuses to carry more than one 5 Mbps channel per station. On the other hand, with 67.4 percent of the 99.4 million U.S. TV households on cable, multicast DTV must-carry is a necessity for broadcasters.

In addition, as shown at NAB '99, reception of the 8-VSB DTV signal (the single-carrier ATSC characteristic) still poses problems, especially with multipath (creating a ghost effect on analog sets and loss of signal for DTV). In Europe, the DVB-T standard utilizes the so-called COFDM, or multiple carriers per channel, eliminating ghosts. COFDM is now used in the U.S. for digital satellite news gathering (D-ENG). For this reason, Sinclair, one of the U.S. major station group owners, is calling on the industry to abandon the ATSC standard that took 10 years and $500 million to develop, and switch to the European DVB-TV standard To this, the NAB answered the problem is not with ATSC but rather in the expensive new TV sets. A charge the Consumer Electronic Manufacturers Association denies.

For its part, Europe is now promoting a bandwidth-saving COFDM-6 system for a 6MHz channel, instead of the 8 MHz it uses for analog TV In the European digital-TV standard, both audio and video use MPEG. In the U.S., video uses MPEG, while audio uses Dolby. But the European digital plight ultimately will not differ from that of the U.S.

Looking back, the NAB and the FCC were wise to demand a digital HDTV standard when, in 1989, digital TV was thought to defy the laws of physics. "We'll have digital television the same day we have an antigravity machine," decried Joe Flaherty, CBS senior vp of Technology. Considering that in 1986 the U.S. was facing a well developed analog Japanese HDTV system (Muse) and, in 1987, the European analog HDTV system (MAC), one can appreciate the American vision.

However, the fatal mistake made in 1993 to exclude the computer industry's requirements for a digital-TV standard has delivered a technical system that, with the advent of the Internet, has been rendered obsolete -- technologically financially, in a regulatory sense and with regard to consumer interest.

For this reason, a cross-industry alliance of companies representing the broadcast and cable networks, consumer electronics and the PC industry formed the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) in July 1998 to promote an Internet TV standard ATVEF's universal platform means that once a TV signal is digitized and encoded with an Internet protocol, it can be modulated for over-the-air (terrestrial) broadcast, DTH, ADSL (wide-band common telephone lines), cable-TV systems and, in the future cellular phone networks.

This means that ATVEF programs can be received over digital-TV sets; analog TV receivers equipped with Web 77-type decoders; and computers. In addition, the PC provides an added viewing block (at the office) that conventional TV or ATSC television can't access. Plus, as indicated by telephone giant AT&T (which owns cable groups TC1 and soon Media One), cable-based IP Internet Protocol) is just around the corner. IP, in addition to true VOD, might make the 5 cent-per-minute long distance call a reality. Most TV stations in the U.S. already offer some sort of Web-TV service, and a few even simulcast over the Net. (Take tiny KCTU from Wichita, Kansas, for instance. They are streaming more than 75 percent of their schedule.) For these stations, ATVEF would represent a logical and convenient step.

Among the original 14 companies that founded ATVEF were Warner Bros., Discovery, Intel, Microsoft and BBC Today, the ATVEF membership consists of 30 associates from the U.S., Canada and Europe.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:digital television and Internet television
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Previous Article:A Commentary on Television Markets.
Next Article:Bertelsmann Enters the Internet Arena.

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