Surprise! People Are Interested in OTA HD When Told About It - AVS Forum

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Marcus Carr's Avatar Marcus Carr
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Surprise Interest in Over-The-Air TV

By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/4/2007 6:45:00 AM

One of broadcasters' frequent complaints about the digital television transition is that consumers don't realize they can receive crystal-clear high-definition pictures for free, by using an over-the-air antenna, without having to sign up for high-definition cable or satellite service. And they may be correct in thinking that consumers would be very interested in that capability, if they only knew about it.

After an Associated Press story ran on April 29 that described how simple antennas might deliver better HDTV pictures than cable or satellite service, due to the level of compression that some operators use for HDTV signals, a flurry of traffic hit , a Website run by the Consumer Electronics Association that provides information on over-the-air antennas. The CEA site had 86,000 inquiries about DTV antennas that day, a huge jump from the normal Sunday traffic of 6,000 inquiries, according to CEA spokesman Jason Oxman; the site usually averages 100,000 inquiries per month (an inquiry is more than a hit, says Oxman, as it requires filling out a form to get detailed recommendations on antenna choices based on a viewer's geographic location).

The spike in traffic for actually overwhelmed the site and caused it to start giving out error messages, such as the one a B&C reporter experienced when checking it on Tuesday. Oxman says that based on the increased interest, CEA was working with the vendor who hosts the site to increase its capacity.

"It's a data-intensive site, so it requires a lot of bandwidth resources," says Oxman.

http://broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6439202.html
petergaryr's Avatar petergaryr
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I can confirm this is true from personal experience. I was visiting a friend who has a very nice Pioneer 65" RPTV. I noticed he was watching football on NBC in stretch-0-vision and asked him why he wasn't watching in HD. Punchline: he thought he was.

I brought over an old rabbit ears antenna, connected it, and tuned in the OTA HD local station. Not only was he surprised, but angry that the B&M that sold him the set never told him about the free OTA HD.
foxeng's Avatar foxeng
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I have been saying this for several years due to personal experience with people but everytime I would say it, some wiseaker here would then go into great deal on how I was wrong based on cable this and coverage that and appearance the other thing and it was clearly obvious they had no idea what they were talking about.

Glad some one else thinks so now.
Steve Scherrer's Avatar Steve Scherrer
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There is a LOT of misinformation about HDTV. On another board recently, someone was complaining about an MLS soccer game and about being able to see something with his HD set. Someone else pointed out that the game wasn't broadcast in HD, and he said--didn't matter, his set had the capability to make it HD!
herdfan's Avatar herdfan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petergaryr View Post

Not only was he surprised, but angry that the B&M that sold him the set never told him about the free OTA HD.

Best Buys get a lot of crap for poor service, but I have to admit that mine does a pretty good job of this. They have an antenna hooked up to one of their display sets so they can show people OTA HD.
posg's Avatar posg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

I have been saying this for several years due to personal experience with people but everytime I would say it, some wiseaker here would then go into great deal on how I was wrong based on cable this and coverage that and appearance the other thing and it was clearly obvious they had no idea what they were talking about.

Glad some one else thinks so now.

Here's the downside. I have a relatively sophisticated OTA installation at my house, and receive several adjacent market stations on a regular basis. Today it's windy, and sorry, if you live in an area that has dense foliage, you'll find that UHF signals, be they analog or digital, are not stable on windy days. I cannot even watch my locals. If you could see the waveform on a spectrum analyzer, you'd understand why.

The cable operator in my market "passes" OTA signals without additional compression or grooming. I see no difference in the PQ between the ClearQAM signals from cable or the 8VSB signal off-air. This may not be true everywhere, but as cable operators roll out their bandwidth recovery strategies, compressing signals becomes unnecessary.

After reading posts on this sight for several months now, I have come to the conclusion that OTA reception is as much art as science, and is not a good solution for the mainstream consumer.

So for me, it's not an "either/or" solution. I have both OTA and cable. Most cable operators offer a lifeline basic for way less than $20/month with ClearQAM locals. Its obvious that several posters have invested $100s in OTA hardware and are still getting less than satisfactory results.

One more comment. It sounds more and more that Ka band satellite local HDs are even more prone to rain fade than thier Ku band cousins. OTA backup is highly recommended.

Bottom line. There is no "one size fits all" solution.
kenglish's Avatar kenglish
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Have you ever had someone from the stations come out and look at your setup?

I'd hate to base the entire Digital Transition on blanket statements like, "...if you live in an area that has dense foliage, you'll find that UHF signals, be they analog or digital, are not stable on windy days", or "...OTA reception is as much art as science, and is not a good solution for the mainstream consumer."

I wonder what other things might be affecting your reception.
posg's Avatar posg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

Have you ever had someone from the stations come out and look at your setup?

I'd hate to base the entire Digital Transition on blanket statements like, "...if you live in an area that has dense foliage, you'll find that UHF signals, be they analog or digital, are not stable on windy days", or "...OTA reception is as much art as science, and is not a good solution for the mainstream consumer."

I wonder what other things might be affecting your reception.

foxeng, maybe you can help me out.

Dense foilage wreaks havoc on UHF signals. When it's breezy, and the leaves and limbs move, we experience "dynamic multipath and burst attenuation". Even though my antenna is on the roof of a two story structure, I am in an area where trees grow over 60 feet tall and have a density of over 100 an acre. Unless you can get above tree line, you live with it.

You live in Salt Lake City, where there is very little foliage, and line of sight is REALLY line of sight.

I've engineered dozens of commerical OTA installations and struggled with every reception challenge imaginable, and I can guarantee you that there is nothing wrong with my installation. It's just simple physics at work.
Ricknau's Avatar Ricknau
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posg View Post

So for me, it's not an "either/or" solution.

As you say, that's for you.

The gist of the OP's post is that many folks have no idea that they aren't watching HD or that it may be available to them for no monthly charge. I'd bet a high percentage of these folks won't experience you reception problem and would be grateful to have someone show them how to get free HD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by posg View Post

Bottom line. There is no "one size fits all" solution.

True. But the OTA "size" will fit many many folks who don't even know it's an option.
TVOD's Avatar TVOD
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I wonder how COFDM would perform in this situation compared to 8VSB.
posg's Avatar posg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

I wonder how COFDM would perform in this situation compared to 8VSB.

The problem is that the linearity of the waveform across the 6Mhz bandwidth fluctuates dramatically over short periods of time. If the equalization it the receiver is quick enough , the problem is reduced. Newer 8VSB tuners cope better, and it have read that CODFM is more "robust".

I will get some arguments, but it seems like we (Americans) tend to adopt solutions that are more marketplace driven than engineering driven, and as such, my bet is that CODFM is superior to 8VSB in every way except price.
HDTVChallenged's Avatar HDTVChallenged
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

I wonder what other things might be affecting your reception.

Me too

PS: ... and bonus points for continuing to flog the (dead) COFDM horse.
posg's Avatar posg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricknau View Post

As you say, that's for you.

The gist of the OP's post is that many folks have no idea that they aren't watching HD or that it may be available to them for no monthly charge. I'd bet a high percentage of these folks won't experience you reception problem and would be grateful to have someone show them how to get free HD.



True. But the OTA "size" will fit many many folks who don't even know it's an option.

My biggest complaint about only having OTA is that more than 50% of the broadcast day, there is NOTHING available in HD on any channel. I know over time it will change, but even in primetime its rare to have more that three HD choices.
SalsaNChips's Avatar SalsaNChips
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I have had the local cable company call me twice since I bought my house asking me to sign up for service and I have to admit to rather enjoying the awkward silence on their end when I tell them I am satisfied with HD programming I'm pulling in now (which will increase dramatically when I get my roof top antenna installed and I think I have the magic 5 posts now to start my thread on that with longish description -- hooray!)
scowl's Avatar scowl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posg View Post

If the equalization it the receiver is quick enough , the problem is reduced. Newer 8VSB tuners cope better, and it have read that CODFM is more "robust".

I have a second generation receiver, a third generation receiver and a fourth generation receiver. The second gen was a pain to set up. The antenna placement had to be absolutely perfect and the slightest bit of multipath (off of cars) would ruin the signal for a second or two. The third gen was immune to this kind of multipath I was having and the antenna placement was somewhat less critical.

The fourth gen receiver is excellent. The antenna can be pointed in directions where the other two receive no signal and like the third gen, I have no multipath dropouts at all. So in four years I've seen ATSC receivers make dramatic improvements to the point where I don't think most people will have many problems.
foxeng's Avatar foxeng
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posg View Post

foxeng, maybe you can help me out.

Dense foilage wreaks havoc on UHF signals. When it's breezy, and the leaves and limbs move, we experience "dynamic multipath and burst attenuation". Even though my antenna is on the roof of a two story structure, I am in an area where trees grow over 60 feet tall and have a density of over 100 an acre. Unless you can get above tree line, you live with it.

Remember I live 90 miles from you and my terrain isn't too much different from yours and yes, wind and leaves will cause problems. But having said that, after all of the locals went full power and I switched to a 5th gen chip receiver (both H20 and the Samsung DTB-H260F) that problem reduced to almost nothing on the locals. Now on the stations out of market, yes, it is still a problem, but most people are not DXing 3 markets over either so for the majority of people in most situations (not 100% but a majority) some kind of OTA antenna would be acceptable. I have never been a fan of the indoor antenna and I am still not. But if you have an outside antenna, a 5th gen receiver and you still have problems with local full power OTA's, something isn't right somewhere. My guesses would be too much loss or too much gain! I realize that is a broad brush, but like you said, everyone has a different situation, but of all of the people who have called me over the last 5 years, the number of people who couldn't get usable DTV OTA I can count on one hand. I know that isn't scientific and may not represent reality, but that is my experience and most of that time has been with stations not operating at full power. When we all went full power, my calls dropped off dramatically.
Emaych's Avatar Emaych
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I had the benefit of the OTA knowledge imparted to me upon my very first actual viewing when I inquired as to what the source of the feed was in a GOOD GUYS, I think it was. I was somewhat incredulous as I never knew there was this whole other broadcast dimension out there. "Do you mean to tell me that all that is necessary to get that picture and program content right there, is one of these sets and an antenna?" It has been strictly OTA ever since.
Thomas Desmond's Avatar Thomas Desmond
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ricknau View Post

True. But the OTA "size" will fit many many folks who don't even know it's an option.

And this statement sums it up perfectly.

OTA digital television is not for everyone. Some folks are just not able to achieve good reception, either due to terrain, distance from the transmitter, or restrictions on the sort of antenna they can install. Others have viewing preferences that won't be served without access to non-OTA channels.

But many do primarily watch programming from local broadcast stations and are able to enjoy good, reliable off-air reception. A number of us here fall into that category (including myself) and are enjoying our free OTA high definition television reception. I'm delighted to see articles like this that are telling us that more folks are discovering what I've been enjoying for years -- and I hope that those articles will multiply over the next couple of years as we approach the analog shutdown. Perhaps if that happens, fewer broadcasters will consider their OTA coverage to be secondary to their cable/satellite coverage.

So what would the penetration for OTA digital television be if everyone knew what we know? I have no idea as to whether it would be 25% or 75%, but I do suspect that it would be much higher than it currently is.
LukFilm's Avatar LukFilm
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People are interested in something that's free? SHOCKING!
Nitewatchman's Avatar Nitewatchman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxeng View Post

Remember I live 90 miles from you and my terrain isn't too much different from yours and yes, wind and leaves will cause problems.

I'm not there, but have lots of trees, and there are terrain obstructions involved in some cases(I'm in small, steep valley), and I didn't/don't have any problems with that whatsoever -- as in no dropouts or reception problems over 6 years of OTA DTV/HD reception with my main antenna setup from what is now 15 local DTV stations(there were only 4 when I started in 2001), all of them within 39 miles distant.

Exception being, when I put a second antenna(with seperate feedline and A/B switch before receiver to switch between them) a little lower to receive stations transmitting from one location(stations 12~14 miles distant) so as not to need to use rotor for them, and only on stations on certian frequencies(high UHF ch 50, 51 and 58), and only when leaves are off trees and wind is blowing and temp is above 32F or so .....

I saw enough with that however to realize that I can understand the frustration folks have that do run into this problem, and the difficulties in some cases in getting it "fixed". It can probably seem quite "finicky" if you've never experienced how easy+"dropout free" DTV reception often is.

While certianly we want DTV reception to be better than analog(and in my experience, it is, sometimes much better vs. snowy/ghosty analog signals) ---- that being said in this case analog station on a similar frequency, transmitting from same towers/location isn't even watchable because of it (even the audio carrier is affected by the multipath+fading distrubances in the signal) ...

It is just amazing the difference in ghosting on the analog station involved here when leaves are off trees and limbs getting blown around(unwatchable, really), and when leaves are on trees(including when wind is blowing tree limbs around) -- or with antenna a few feet higher in any circumstances .... No, or very minor ghosting ....

Quote:


But having said that, after all of the locals went full power and I switched to a 5th gen chip receiver (both H20 and the Samsung DTB-H260F) that problem reduced to almost nothing on the locals.

I've noticed the 5th generation chipset in my Hauppauge HVR1600 PC tuner card handles the issue noted above better than earlier receivers as well, but it's still not quite dropout free with it.

I think I'd read recently they're going to be putting 6th generation chipsets in equipment soon. I think (don't quote me on this) that includes at least some of the DTV converter boxes .... Hopefully, they've improved things even more regarding this issue .....

I must say, I talked about my observations about the "trees" in another thread recently+I was hesitant to bring it up at all as I know some folks probably want everything to be simple and "black or white" answer when sometimes there's "grey area", or some folks may have read my comments and probably just picked little "pieces" out of it and think I'm someone who can't watch those stations without "dropouts" because of it ... that's not true however ...

Quote:


But if you have an outside antenna, a 5th gen receiver and you still have problems with local full power OTA's, something isn't right somewhere. My guesses would be too much loss or too much gain!

I don't feel like going into all the details required to explain/prove it at present, but I can report that(too much loss or too much gain) is certianly not the problem I've observed here .....

If it's something I don't have "right", I can't imagine what it might be as I've went through everything I can think of from making sure I don't have bad or "kinked up" center conductor to using attenuators/etc making sure I have plenty of signal(or not too much)/etc/etc/etc, trying different antenna aimings, different antennas/etc/etc/etc, to using a 2 way radio+helper to try to "peak" the antenna aiming/etc. for best results while the wind is blowing a little+leaves are off(that was certianly a futile endeavor, BTW) ....

But, Raise antenna to over 30FT AGL+the problem goes away, completely ... My theory is I think it's "weird" ground reflection/multipath echo issue that are scattered/attenuated enough when leaves are on trees, or that differences in refraction "fixes" when the temp is cold enough.

I also tried different antenna locations on different mast(s) and indoors within 100Feet of where I had it, and the situation was still the same. True, there's a bit less signal with antenna at 25FT AGL where the problem does occur vs. 30FT or higher, but not that much, and these are signals where I have much more signal than I need for DTV reception ... and no, adding attenuators doesn't fix the problem either, and yes, it happens if there's nothing between antenna and receiver besides balun, about 30ft of RG6 coax+2 F connectors ....

Quote:


of all of the people who have called me over the last 5 years, the number of people who couldn't get usable DTV OTA I can count on one hand. I know that isn't scientific and may not represent reality, but that is my experience and most of that time has been with stations not operating at full power. When we all went full power, my calls dropped off dramatically.

That's certianly good news! Also, along the lines of something you said earlier, a couple of engineers I've talked to privately have said they were quite surprised at how many people they've talked to or calls they get from folks who are watching OTA. And, I don't mean folks who are having reception problems.

It's good to hear these things, at least I think it is, as I don't see a lot of mention of their OTA service by broadcasters, and oftentimes, we don't hear about reception successes here, I think we hear more from the folks having problems who are asking for help. So, it seems like a "barrage" of it here at times, although I also suspect those having problems are relatively few .... Of course, those "wisecrackers" you talk about don't help much either ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas Desmond View Post

But many do primarily watch programming from local broadcast stations and are able to enjoy good, reliable off-air reception.

I agree, and, while certianly there are exceptions such as folks who really do live in "white space" areas or difficult reception circumstances+are confined to using indoor antenna, I would think most people in U.S. would be able to enjoy reliable OTA reception ....

In fact, I guess I have a hard time understanding why more people don't use it(whether or not they also choose to use cable or sat) when the ATSC receiver is in the TV and all you have to do is add antenna, and really I even felt the same way about analog OTA, only now with HD/DTV it's even better ... It's there and I think quite inexpensive in most circumstances, why not use it?
mx6bfast's Avatar mx6bfast
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I was trying to help someone with an antenna question and antennaweb.org was down due to high traffic, now I know.
whotony's Avatar whotony
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i can use ota for hd if i want but, i also like to watch espn hd, discovery hd, uni hd, etc.

also i need to record because i never watch live.

so if i could watch all the other hd stuff and record in hd then i'm in.
but until i can do that i still need comcast
scowl's Avatar scowl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whotony View Post

i can use ota for hd if i want but, i also like to watch espn hd, discovery hd, uni hd, etc.

I use both OTA and cable. I prefer OTA because I don't have to use whatever Comcast is renting me.

Quote:


also i need to record because i never watch live.

If you're a geek like me, it's very easy to record OTA with a PC. You can do whatever you want with OTA recordings within copyright laws -- burn them to DVD, copy them to your laptop or PDA, and so on. Plus you'll never have to hear Comcast apologizing to you for wiping out all your recordings with a firmware update they sent to your DVR.
kenglish's Avatar kenglish
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I often wonder, "Why don't broadcasters (maybe through the NAB or MSTV) commission someone to build a decent OTA-based PVR?".

Is that too much to ask?
scolumbo's Avatar scolumbo
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl View Post

I use both OTA and cable. I prefer OTA because I don't have to use whatever Comcast is renting me.


If you're a geek like me, it's very easy to record OTA with a PC. You can do whatever you want with OTA recordings within copyright laws -- burn them to DVD, copy them to your laptop or PDA, and so on. Plus you'll never have to hear Comcast apologizing to you for wiping out all your recordings with a firmware update they sent to your DVR.

But you're the exception. Most people aren't going to hassle with a HTPC when the cable/sat DVR works for them most of the time. The same reason most people won't hassle with an antenna when that cable coming out of their wall gets them locals and ESPN, Fox News, The Weather Channel, etc. For HD, cable and now D* is making it too easy to skip the antenna altogether.

And free or not, the days of the average person relying solely on an antenna for all of their TV are long gone.
CKNA's Avatar CKNA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posg View Post

The problem is that the linearity of the waveform across the 6Mhz bandwidth fluctuates dramatically over short periods of time. If the equalization it the receiver is quick enough , the problem is reduced. Newer 8VSB tuners cope better, and it have read that CODFM is more "robust".

I will get some arguments, but it seems like we (Americans) tend to adopt solutions that are more marketplace driven than engineering driven, and as such, my bet is that CODFM is superior to 8VSB in every way except price.


Oh please. COFDM would not help you at all. There is nothing better about it. 95% of people have no problem receiving 8VSB. COFDM is not a magic pill. I am so sick of this fud. Do you know that COFDM can't deal with electrical interference at all. It kills it. I suggest you check forums where people use DVB-T. There are all kinds of problems, like hair dryers killing the reception.

I live in CT where I have dense foliage, hills and have no problems receiving OTA. I had some problems when the stations were low power, but once they went full everything has been great.
jimp2244's Avatar jimp2244
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scolumbo View Post

But you're the exception. Most people aren't going to hassle with a HTPC when the cable/sat DVR works for them most of the time. The same reason most people won't hassle with an antenna when that cable coming out of their wall gets them locals and ESPN, Fox News, The Weather Channel, etc. For HD, cable and now D* is making it too easy to skip the antenna altogether.


Cancel cable, save $50 to $100 or more a month and that will pay for a new HD TV set in a year, then tell me if you miss it. I rely on antenna for all of my TV and without all those "wonderful" channels I still watch too much TV. Obviously some people will still want additional services from cable or satellite, but one of the main reasons there aren't more people like me right now is because most people don't realize what is available to them.

Quote:


And free or not, the days of the average person relying solely on an antenna for all of their TV are long gone.

I'd actually venture to say that with DTV, they may be coming back...
barth2k's Avatar barth2k
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

I often wonder, "Why don't broadcasters (maybe through the NAB or MSTV) commission someone to build a decent OTA-based PVR?".

Is that too much to ask?

but broadcasters don't want you to skip commercials with DVR.

I'm paying just way too much for fios. Unfortunately, there's too much sports I'd be missing if I went OTA only, and the trend now is more and more spoets moving to cable. sigh.
McDonoughDawg's Avatar McDonoughDawg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petergaryr View Post

I can confirm this is true from personal experience. I was visiting a friend who has a very nice Pioneer 65" RPTV. I noticed he was watching football on NBC in stretch-0-vision and asked him why he wasn't watching in HD. Punchline: he thought he was.

I brought over an old rabbit ears antenna, connected it, and tuned in the OTA HD local station. Not only was he surprised, but angry that the B&M that sold him the set never told him about the free OTA HD.

That's strange, most every electronic device I have ever bought, came with an owners manual.
posg's Avatar posg
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Perhaps broadcasters could/should run DTV and HDTV reception tutorials rather than P.I. infomercials overnight and weekend afternoons, or does that come too close to "serving the public interest".

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