DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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NBC Steps Up to HD, SED, & the FCC

September 14, 2006

NBC's The Today Show just gained a new studio and a new state-of-the-art high-definition control room. It began airing in HD yesterday, joining ABC's Good Morning America in that format.

CBS's The Early Show continues to be late to the game among the morning network news & entertainment shows.

Yesterday's viewers were treated to a tour of NBC's new HD-friendly studio and the most impressive new control room, with its wall of widescreen monitors. The Today Show also gained a new co-host (Meredith Vieira) the same day.

No doubt as a coordinated action, NBC's New York local station (WNBC) also went high-def at the same time. It's now broadcasting 28 hours of local news and other local programming every week.

It joins the local CBS affiliate in Raleigh, NC, to switch to HD. WRAL was the first in the country to transition to high-def, and now uses HD cameras in the field for news collection and on its helicopter.

Hopefully this trend will gain momentum.

SED continues moving toward mass production with an announcement by Canon and Toshiba of the planned construction of a new plant as early as this year. Mass production is still targeted for 2008.

They're still grappling with getting production costs down, to meet the price reductions seen recently with LCD and plasma flat-panels. SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter displays) continues to be the holy grail of high-definition TV technologies.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday--the occasion being his re-nomination hearing. His prepared written statement was interesting in that presumably, it is an indicator of his priorities for the FCC.

He did not mention the U.S. transition to the ATSC digital TV standard. In the four-plus page single-spaced paper, his only mention of TV was in the introduction: "Television programs are sold on the Internet and streamed wirelessly to mobile devices;" and "DVRs mean you watch your TV when and where you want."

The major topics in the paper were:

  • Increasing Broadband Deployment
  • Ensuring Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
  • Serving Those with Disabilities
  • Maintaining Universal Service
  • Managing the Agency

Presumably there were questions from the Committee members about the digital TV transition, but because the Commerce Committee staff has not updated their web site since last June, I'll have to wait until someone who was actually there publishes a report.