HDTV Not Up to Snuff?

Wading into the recently erupted battle over the future of HDTV (see related article), the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) filed a Motion for Immediate Dismissal with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week in response to a proposal submitted earlier by Sinclair Broadcasting. CEMA claims its Motion (available for reading on its website) is aimed at urging the Commission to avoid a "costly, dead-end path of reopening the digital television (DTV) standard approved in 1996."

According to CEMA's Motion, "the Sinclair petition is repetitive and raises technology issues already addressed in the 10-year standard development process." Regulatory intervention at this point, argues CEMA, would cause uncertainty and confusion and would not serve the public interest. CEMA President Gary Shapiro states that "the standard has been in place for nearly three years and the transition to DTV is well underway. To revisit the standard now would delay DTV."

Shapiro goes on to say that "the standard was established to provide broadcasters and manufacturers with the certainty they needed to move forward with the transition. Billions of dollars have been invested since 1996 to bring the benefits of DTV to consumers—to consider adding a new standard at this point would put us back to square one. Indeed, over 300 million dollars of 8-VSB consumer equipment has already been sold."

But is there a problem with the current standard, as Sinclair's petition suggests? CEMA claims that solutions are available to address reception issues outlined by Sinclair: "Recent chip sets from several manufacturers provide excellent reception under many difficult multipath circumstances."

Michael Petricone, CEMA's director of technology policy, adds that "It is ironic that Sinclair's petition is now calling for the creation of multiple broadcast standards. That directly contradicts Sinclair's position outlined in a white paper during the development process—that multiple standards would drive up consumer costs while causing delay and confusion in the marketplace. If a technical problem actually existed with the 8-VSB standard, CEMA would be in the vanguard petitioning for a change. Our members have every economic incentive to ensure that all Americans can enjoy the benefits of DTV."