[i] ... but I don't understand why you blame people for not buying something you're not selling. [/b]
I am not blaming anyone, that is the point. It is CHICKEN AND THE EGG. Has been from the start.
The real problem is there is no business model for DTV, and until there is, DTV is going to flounder around with this chicken and the egg. It is a government mandate to the broadcasters, plain and simple.
Let me state fact here that I don't like either, but it is the truth. CEA (Consumer Electronics Assoc) admits that since 1998, there has been only 2.5 million capable HD sets sold in the US and only 500,000 of those can actually receive OTA or via sat digital programming. For the whole USA! As I stated before, we have 1 million viewers in this area alone. How do the numbers stack up for stations/networks/programmers anywhere to spend money like it takes to provide HD programming (twice to three times as much verses analog) to 500,000 nationwide sets verses the 330 million nationwide non HD sets with the FCC's "open marketplace" policy. Either stations start charging for HD material to support the high cost verses low viewership (how much would you be willing to pay for HD programming? HHHHMM sounds like PBS
) or do it the way it is being done.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news put creating DTV was not for the public to have better technical TV standards, but a way to help pay down the national debt by auctioning off unused TV channels. How do you do that? By creating a new television service and squeezing them into a small space. Take old unused TV channels and sell them to the highest bidder. The auctions have already started even though stations (analog and DTV) are still on the air on those channels 52-69. That is why broadcasters have had to do this now and no other related service has even been touched. So there has been no real desire on the part of ANYONE (cable, networks, program distribution, manufactures, etc) to do it, hence, chicken and the egg.
Now, would the US have gone to DTV? ABSOLUTELY! The industry had been moving slowly in that direction for sometime, but not on this break neck speed. (Have you heard of digital radio? Not XM, but digital AM and FM? It is right around corner and you better hope the FCC doesn't force you to buy new radios like DTV) In 1996, when DTV officially started, most of the technology was vaporware and even today, there are standards that are still being worked out, like closed captioning. There is NO closed captioning standard, even though DTV stations are required to transmit closed captioning starting first of the month! There are 4 protocols now, and all receivers have to all four until a standard is devised. It is like all receivers have to have all 18 digital formats, even though only 3 are used. This is called "Marketplace" regulation, let the market place decide. Let the marketplace pay the cost is what it is.
Television is fairly labor intensive. Equipment is fairly expensive since it is a highly specialized service with VERY limited customers, less than 2000 stations in the US.
Commercial TV stations are businesses first, we get NO government subsidy, (unlike the PBS stations). But I like getting a paycheck every week too, so in order to do that, things have to be budgeted out and this short window for DTV is not really long enough to do it right, and we are seeing that now. As I said in my last post, it takes millions of dollars to just do the transmitter for DTV and at least the same amount to convert studios. Let's say you had that kind of money for capital lying around, delivery is another matter. You can have all the money in the world, but if you can't get delivery, that money doesn't do much good. There are basically 4 transmitter manufactures, 3 antenna manufactures, 3 tower manufactures, 2 microwave radio manufactures, and only about 15 tower companies that can handle this type of work and you see, money is not the only problem. These manufacturers are normally geared up to sell to about 10% of the broadcasters at any one time. You now have over 70% knocking on their doors now. (What is going to happen to them when the rush is over and NO ONE needs transmitters anymore because everyone has a new one?) Normal turnaround for a transmitter is 30 to 60 days, last time I talked to a manufacturer, last month, it was 6 months and that was with production pumped up expecting this load. It is estimated that at least 40% of all stations will need new towers installed. It takes about 4 to 6 months to fabricate a 1300 ft plus tower, and 3 to 6 months to install same said tower once it arrives, just ask Dubbadon. It took him over a year once his 2000 ft tower was delivered! Channel 2 was at low power for over a month while they were installing new antennas on their 2000 tower.
Europe started their transition to DTV in the early 90's and they still aren't there yet and will not be till 2010, and the US market is expected to be completed by 2006. Our market is much much larger than theirs, what makes ours different?
These are just some of the problems every TV station has to deal with to just get on the air. Are some stations trying to take the easy way out, I am sure of it. Just look at the list of stations the FCC has denied extensions to. I have read the reasoning for some of them and it is laughable.
No, we are not at full power yet, but each day we get one step closer, but at least we are on the air in digital. I am truly sorry our signal does not make it to you, but soon it will. We are pretty lucky in this market that we have as many digital stations on as we do even though not all are 24/7. There are some markets that do not have the first DTV station on yet.
As I stated before, it is all still new and we as broadcasters are learning. It is a whole new way of doing business for us and we are trying to make it work as best we can. Until we get some help from the FCC requiring DTV tuners in sets like they did with UHF tuners in the 50's, receiver manufacturers, and programmers, DTV life is going to be hard for everyone.
DTV is something I work on everyday, even though we have a signal on the air. I check several boards a day reading what others are saying and reading what other stations are doing, and that is why I have decided to participate in this forum, to help our viewers understand why we are doing what we are doing and to gain insight into what you expect. I have no power to make any changes, but I can send up the ladder what I see and what I hear, and I do.
I know this all sounds like I am against DTV, but I am not, I am a big supporter of it. I see it from both sides so I am tempered in my expectations. I am also a realist, and since I make my living at this, I want to be sure we have a product that will continue to allow me to make my living this way. No DTV station in this country is paying its way, none, not even WRAL in Raleigh, the first and biggest proponent of DTV. Until that happens, most stations will continue on the path they are on.
If you wish to speak to me personally, feel free to call me at work M-F 9-5 at 821-1144, that is my desk number and if you call, I will be happy to talk to you about DTV in general or WGHP-DT in particular. You can also email me at [email protected]
Right now we are all on different pages, but the book is shrinking, thank God!