Broadcasters Counter FCCs Kennard on DTV

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Washington-Broadcast-industry leaders are countering suggestions by Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard that the industry is planning potentially disruptive changes in the digital-TV standard.

In a letter sent to Kennard July 28, two broadcast-industry leaders said they were trying to determine in part whether the standard itself or digital-receiver performance was at the root of the digital-TV-reception debate.

The letter-signed by National Association of Broadcasters president Edward O. Fritts and Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) president Margita White-also said they were testing the FCC's standard against the leading alternative to compare reception of over-the-air video by mobile and portable receivers.

But Fritts and White said the tests-led by the NAB and MSTV and funded by 29 broadcasting organizations-would not involve a comparison of the standards' ability to transmit wireless-data services.

The FCC approved a standard called 8-VSB (vestigial sideband), but Sinclair Broadcast Group and dozens of other TV-station owners claimed that 8-VSB offers inferior indoor reception and is unlikely to be suitable for data or mobile-video services, causing them to push the European standard, COFDM (code orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing).

Both ABC Inc. and NBC have also raised serious questions about 8-VSB's performance.

"We are committed to expediting the transition [to digital], and that commitment impels us to investigate COFDM on a parallel track with 8-VSB, rather than waiting until after it might be determined that 8-VSB is deficient," Fritts and White said.

The letter was their response to Kennard's own July 24 letter, in which he expressed concern that broadcasters were considering a migration to COFDM to explore the use of their digital spectrum to compete in the broadband-wireless-data market, perhaps at the expense of high-definition television.

For many, HDTV is the only reason why TV stations got their digital spectrum free-of-charge.

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