Hello, and welcome to my HDTV blog!

Hello, and thanks for reading my blog. I hope my extensive research about high-definition television production, and about the upcoming U.S. transition to digital television (yikes, less than a year away!) will prove to be helpful to those who want to learn about this emerging technology.

While many TV content producers have already adopted high-def production tools in the past couple of years, the sense of urgency to embrace high-def production has been prompted by the U.S. government’s mandated shutdown of all analog TV transmissions by local television affiliate stations in February 2009. There is a great deal of confusion and gnashing of teeth regarding this development, which is one of the reasons I feel compelled to share all the information I’ve been able to glean from TV/film industry sources, and from scouring federal Web sites filled with obscure FCC directives and sketchy information about what will really happen in February of next year.

I tend to agree with a representative of one major broadcast equipment supplier, whose livelihood depends on the ability of its products to transmit on the same frequencies currently being used by many television stations in America. This representative likened the Digital Television D-Day to the Y2K phenomenon, which prior to January 1, 2000 had struck fear in the hearts of people across the globe. There was endless talk of the need to prepare, and then dire predictions of the outcome. January 1 came, the computer clocks turned over to the new millenium, and the world did not come to a screeching halt.

So, as we approach the day next February when the analog transmitters of local TV stations across America will go dark, I hark back to the days leading to Y2K. My guess is the impact will be felt, but that life will go on pretty much as it always has.

Here’s what you need to know about this impending sea change in the way television is distributed to our media-hungry society:

  • The federal mandate only affects local TV station affiliates; it does not require compliance by cable TV or satellite TV providers.
  • The requirement is that local broadcasters MUST cease transmitting their signal on the current analog spectrum, and switch to broadcasting only on the DIGITAL spectrum.
  • The local broadcasters are not required to broadcast in high-definition; they are only required to broadcast a DIGITAL signal. That digital signal can still carry standard-definition programming. My guess is that, except for TV stations in the 20 largest US media markets, all local news will continue to be produced in standard-definition for quite some time, due to the prohibitive cost of high-definition cameras and edit systems.
  • THIS WILL REALLY ONLY AFFECT YOU IMMEDIATELY IF YOU RELY ON OFF-AIR SIGNAL VIA AN ANTENNA TO WATCH TV, AND YOU DON’T HAVE A DIGITAL-READY TELEVISION!
  • If you are in the category listed above, you will be able to receive the local stations’ digital signal using a government-subsidized, digital-to-analog set-top converter box. You probably haven’t heard this, but $919 MILLION OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS HAVE BEEN APPROPRIATED BY THE US CONGRESS to pay for a federal rebate coupon program to help Americans purchase this equipment. Every household in America is eligible for up to two $40 rebate coupons, which can be used to buy two digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes. These will apparently be available at major retailers such as WalMart, Best Buy, and Circuit City, although they’re only slowly showing up in the US marketplace.
  • Here is the link to the federal Web site that has been established for this rebate program: www.dtv2009.gov
  • Another little hidden nugget: while the federal government has stated that the mandate does not apply to cable TV or satellite TV providers, they were given an out that was buried in some obscure FCC directive. Apparently, if they deem it necessary due to “business reasons,” they do have the right to stop offering an analog signal into your home, and also make the switch to digital broadcasting only. That would mean you wouldn’t be able to watch their programming, either, on an older analog TV. That also means they can require all their subscribers to pay an extra monthly fee for a digital-to-analog set-top converter box.
  • THE POSSIBILITY OF WHAT I JUST DESCRIBED ABOVE SHOULD BE FOUGHT VIGOROUSLY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS AMERICA! This could have a severe impact on the ability of those who are economically disadvantaged to have access to important local programming. It’s been suggested that this be brought to the attention of your local city council/board of alderman, and, if one exists in your community, your cable TV commission.

How does this affect people in my business? More on that in the coming days, as we prepare in our operation to make the exciting, but fairly complicated transition to producing high-definition television.

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2 Responses to “Hello, and welcome to my HDTV blog!”

  1. Mr WordPress Says:
  2. Hello, and welcome to my HDTV blog! Says:

    […] Blogger wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIf you are in the category listed above, you will be able to receive the local stations’ digital signal using a government-subsidized, digital-to-analog set-top converter box. You probably haven’t heard this, but $919 MILLION OF YOUR … […]

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