Originally Posted by NYCLA*
Pardon my French, but that is F*CK*D
You have wonder who the geniuses are in the NAB and at the networks who think singling out 4:3 analog television viewers like this and forcing this crap down our throats is a "good idea". I mean, it's actually described as a "benefit" for viewers. Are they serious???? It boggles the mind...
The only solution to this is going to be to buy a 16:9 television, and I don't have the budget for that right now.
Personally I think AFD is a great idea, and I think you have totally misplaced your anger, with the possible exception that NBC might be sending the wrong AFD code. There are 16 different AFD codes, but I am going to only talk about 4 of them with respect to HD content (8 of them are undefined, reserved or not recommended, and the other 4 that I won't be talking about are used for formats that are not 16:9 or 4:3). Two of them (8 & 10) indicate that the material is a 16:9 full frame image (they mean the exact same thing for 16:9 material, I believe the reason for two different codes is how they map into the codes for 4:3 material if the station or cable company converts the material to a 4:3 coded frame for SD transmission). Code 15 also means that it is a 16:9 full frame image, but it is "4:3 friendly", i.e. it was shot with 4:3 screens in mind, so nothing important should be occuring outside the 4:3 window (but I certainly understand that you may still want to see it). Code 9 says that the material is pillarboxed 4:3 material, i.e. there are black bars on the left and right of a 4:3 frame to make it 16:9.
I don't see how you can complain about WNBC sending useful information, unless they are sending wrong information. This information should be advisory only, and only used if you tell your converter box to use it. There is no "law" or "standard" that says a converter box has to do something a particular way. Most converter boxes have something like a "set by program" zoom setting which should crop the 16:9 image if the AFD code is 9, but there should always be the option to choose to not do that with one of the other settings. Code 15 can be handled in a variety of ways, but again, even if the "set by program" setting automatically cropped and zoomed the image, you should always have the option of setting something else.
In my opinion, your converter box is the problem. They chose to not give you the option of letterboxing the image. Now, this might make sense for code 9 (although I don't even agree with that, in case the station screws up and sends code 9 for material that is not 4:3 pillarboxed), but it makes no sense for code 15. Perhaps Code 15 material should be cropped if you say you want the AFD codes to automatically choose an appropriate zoom setting (although that behavior should be configurable), but you should always be given the option to do something else. If NBC is sending code 9 for programming they consider "4:3 friendly" then they are screwing up, because they should be sending code 15. But my guess is that they are sending code 15 and your box is doing the wrong thing by not giving you the option of letterboxing the material.
So, instead of being upset at NBC for implementing a very useful feature, you should be upset at the manufacturer of your converter box for doing the wrong thing. Perhaps you should be complaining to them and looking for a firmware upgrade to fix the problem. Buying a 16:9 TV is certainly NOT the only solution to your problem. Instead, you could buy a better converter box that doesn't implement AFD in a brain damaged way.
Instead of railing against NBC you should be telling people about how brain damaged your converter box is and tell people that they should avoid purchasing that model and instead recommend one that doesn't behave badly in the presence of AFD. Most likely all of the networks are eventually going to implement AFD (I believe FOX is already sending AFD on their network programming), so things are only going to get worse for you if you don't get your converter box upgraded (not likely to happen, but perhaps if enough people raise the issue the company might agree to fix the problem) or replaced.
In summary, WNBC is not making the decision for you. They are sending useful information that you should be able to use to let your converter box automatically choose the right presentation. It's your converter box that is making the decision for you by not allowing you any alternative. People who are having problems with AFD should be talking about the brand of converter box they have, so we can find out which ones do the right thing and which ones don't.