White-Space Devices Disturb TV? Even More Will Interfere With DTV!

January 11, 2008

The battle continues between traditional broadcast companies and new wireless actors on the block that aims to use the white-space, air waves released by the DTV transition. Again there is a dispute if new wireless devices are interfering with airwaves or not. Washington Post reports from the scene where the Wireless Innovation Alliance (WIA) claims that NAB is leading a “misinformation campaign” that misleads decision-makers such as FCC. The question is if new wireless gadgets and devices are or will be interfering with TV signals and similar airwaves. WIAs letter to FCC is pointing out that decisions about white-space usage should be based on technical grounds.

NABs VP Wharton, says in a pressrelease that a successful DTV transition is in peril and that the WIA devices failed testings. ” That is not misinformation but an inconvenient truth”, states Wharton.

This battle do not really focus on the transition as such. I don’t really understand how Wharton can link WIA to a failed transition to DTV, if it fails I think it will be because consumers didn’t get proper information and/or the converter boxes would fail. One example is if the supply would glitch.

My experience is that the digital TV broadcasts might be severely interfered in other ways. I know from several cases (in Sweden) where people had interference in the reception because buses, motorbikes and even trains passed not to far from their home. And made the digital picture freeze or become “pixel-ed”. Just as converter boxes will react differently to bad weather or trees full of leaves, they will react in different ways when it comes to other interfering signals in the air. That is not from any new wireless device but from old fashioned “travel gadgets”. I must point out that interference like this is not common, but it happens quite widely when it comes interference because of weather and trees.

Converter boxes differ on how well they are shielded from other external signals or currents. I think this is a much more serious problem from a consumers perspective. Especially when it is the first generation of converter boxes that will flood retailers shelf’s. How well will they work? I believe no one really knows right now, since the converter boxes are in the making in this moment as you read this text. NTIAs requirements for converters doesn’t really cover this topic, I think.

But consumer will care about their brand new promising box.

Anders Bjers


DTV Awareness Growing But Slowly New Study Says

November 21, 2007

The campaigns about the U.S transition to DTV is speeding up and more and more trailers are pumped out at thousands of local TV-stations. A year ago about 33% of U.S citizens knew something about the upcoming transition. Today 43% has reached a basic level of awareness, according to a new study. There is still a long way to walk before U.S has gained a critical mass of awareness to build preparedness until the actual transition is taking place on the 19th of Feb, 2009.

A new study made by Leichtman Research Group, (LRG) concludes that consumer awareness of the Digital TV transition has increased roughly 10 percent in the past year. Now 43% of adults in the United States have heard of the digital TV transition that will take place on February 17, 2009. But few few actually understand, or care about, how the digital transition will affect their household in reality, according to the study.

There is also a divide among consumers with greater annual income (above $75.000) and those beneath. The first group new more about the transition than the ones with less income.

This is worrying since households with less income probably are more possible to use an antenna to receive TV and in that case will be effected by the transition.

Also, reports from U.K says that landlords have very low awareness about the ongoing transition. “Fewer than one in three landlords is aware of the actions they might need to take to implement the switchover to digital television”, reported by Property People and according to research by the National Landlords Association (NLA). I haven’t seen any information, reports or talk about how U.S landlords might be affected.

So, how can we gain momentum to help less connected and financially strong groups to be more aware of the DTV transition? Well, that is the golden question.

I think it is very important to keep up the campaigns in the television, thats basic and important. But i am still surprised of how little local media is reporting about the transition. I think this is because of two facts: The transition is still too far away according to medias logic. And more interesting, no one is “creating” or working to get out news about the transition with local facts and information. Most news material is national information send from Washington D.C that do not reach out on a local level. No news or information is touching the local audience in their daily lives. No local small talk is in motion. And I think little practical understanding is gained on a local level because of that.

How will landlords know or care if they are affected? Most of them have cable TV installed. But they will have a lot of questions from worried tenants who think they will be affected. And those who are affected has to install new equipment to enable tenants to continue to receive television. And landlords are in need of one important fact: Time!

Anders Bjers

ION Launch DTV Campaign – Will Cable TV Loose Subscribers?

November 19, 2007

ION Media Networks, a countrywide TV net launches a new DTV educational campaign today. ION has a special part of their website dedicated to the DTV transition. And many of their OTA channels are already broadcast in digital.

The amount of local DTV campaigns are increasing on a week by week basis right now. And each day more and more consumers are waking up to the forthcoming transition “only” 456 days away. Thats the way it should be. But I think right now the stakeholders are doing a great job to build a critical mass of information about the transition. What I wonder is how they will receive and answer questions and rising confusion among consumers. And are the prepared to grasp a debate among consumers? The debate about the Why? Why am I as a consumer forced to buy new equipment to be able to watch my shows?

I am curious about how that debate may unfold. It might bloom during springtime when the fact has started to sink into the public consciousness. And more interesting: who is going to answer what questions? Who will feel responsible to meet consumers around facts that are facing consumers? I think there will be misunderstandings like that it is the government that are forcing consumers to switch. That is true in one way but the real answer is that the TV industry really want to switch – DTV is cheaper and easier to broadcast, with better quality and greater possibilities to develop the media as never before.

That bring forward another question: Will cable TV companies loose viewers and subscribers?

When DTV over-the-air is in full force perceived as a “new” way to watch TV with greater local choices than before and at no monthly cost – will consumers that feel tied by the cable companies switch to this kind of TV?

The DTV campaigns will push many to go online and check out the facts. Many cable viewers will believe that they are affected by the transition. Will they take another step – to leave the monthly subscription model for free TV?

That haven’t been the case during Sweden’s transition to DTV – but who knows about the U.S?

Lets get back to the debate – when it is in motion.

Anders Bjers

DTV Antennas – Sharing Consumer Advice From Professionals

August 12, 2007

The otherday a comment on this blog came in. It is a long list of advices about the state of antennas in the U.S concerning the forthcoming transition. Here’s some insights from Dennys Antenna Service, Ithaca, MI.

Disclaimer: The following is not my words or information. But I want to forward them because of the fact that they concieve the many options and facts that are to face consumers in a practical way when they are about to make changes to recieve TV over the air in digital. Please feel free to comment on the advices or ad your own advices. Use the comment form below. I will aprove comments before they appear.
Please enjoy and thank you Denny’s for sharing your knowledge

Anders Bjers

Consumer interest in free over the air digital- HD TV is definitely on the increase. The number of visitors to our web site http://www.dennysantennaservice.com has skyrocketed over the past year, mainly do to the introduction of free over the air digital – HDTV.
Choosing the proper TV antenna for a particular location is the main issue for most. Many consumer’s have a tendency to purchase antennas that are to small to do the job, digital reception is an all or nothing proposition, you’re going to want a strong signal. Also, there is a misconception that all digital – HDTV broadcast signals are on the UHF band (14-69) Currently it’s true, many broadcaster’s are transmitting their digital signals on UHF, because much of the VHF band (2-13) is currently being used to broadcast analog TV signals. However, when the digital transition is complete on February 17th of 2009, the date set when broadcasters will turn off their analog signals, things will change. There are only a handful of broadcast locations across the U.S. that have plans to remain 100% on the UHF band, most areas will have both VHF and UHF digital stations. This means if you purchase a UHF TV antenna now, chances are you may loose the ability to receive a portion of your digital channels in the future. Some areas already have VHF digital stations.

My best advice is to purchase a TV antenna that is large enough to be certain it can easily receive all of the digital broadcast signals in your area, even during poor reception conditions. The antenna should be VHF/UHF capable, unless you are absolutely certain all of your stations are currently UHF, and will remain UHF after the digital transition is complete. To determine the channel number your area digital stations currently broadcast on now, and the channel number they plan to broadcast on after the 2009 analog shutdown date, visit http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-06-1082A2.pdf. When you visit this site, start by finding your state and then the city where your area stations are located. The channel number that appears in the first column is the current digital channel number of that station, the second column is the current analog channel number, and the third column is the tentative final channel number destination. The third column is the channel number where the station plans to permanently broadcast their digital signal. VHF channels are 2 – 13 and UHF are 14 – 69. If your not sure where or what stations are available in your area, visit www.antennaweb.org. This is a great site to visit, it will provide the city location of the stations in your area and much more.

FCC Seeks The Publics Comments On Digital TV Switch

August 2, 2007

This week belongs to the Federal Communications Commission, FCC. For the first time FCC wants to open it´s doors to the public, regarding digital TV. FCC seeks comments from everyone who cares on the proposed DTV education initiatives for the transition to DTV. Ad to that FCC member Adelstien´s call for a DTV transition task-force during yesterdays ACA meeting in Monterey. Last but not least – FCCs vote on the auction of spectrum in the 700-megahertz band.

I think FCC goes out of it´s way to listen to the audience, stakeholders and everyone involved or engaged in the transition -while there is time. Or is FCC seeking to refine it´s own role in the transition?

Here is what FCC is looking for better understanding of:

The NPRM seeks comment on proposals to help convey the timing, logistics and benefits of the DTV transition to consumers, including:
• Broadcaster Public Service Announcements, other Consumer Education Requirements, and Reporting
• Notices in Cable, Satellite, and other MVPD Bills
• Notices from Consumer Electronics Manufacturers
• Employee Training by Consumer Electronics Retailers
• Adjustments to the DTV.gov Partners Program

This can be viewed as the most critical parts for the moment of the U.S DTV transition. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this is a great effort but very formal. Why don´t FCC invite stakeholders, NABs TV Coalition and everyone else to a physical meeting in D.C. Use technology to have a real interactive and engaged meeting to listen in to everyone’s ideas and proposals to make the transition successful and deliver the comments that FCC asks for?

The second thing that comes to my mind is the question if this is what FCC wants to have more knowledge about – isn´t this very much the same that NAB and the DTV Coalition is preparing to launch?

The third thing is that nothing is mentioned about information campaigns as such and budgets. Two fundamental parts of the transition.

Another concern that may be important is that the DTV information campaigns will run during a election year. Usually it might be hard to compete with the audiences attention when political ads and news events are taking place.

From experiences made in Germany, U.K and Sweden suggests that much of the work in the beginning of the process leading up to transitions, was focused on getting the stakeholders and the industry to work together. In Sweden it took about a year to get the stakeholders to agree and work together on unified messages, campaigning efforts as well as shared budgets. In UK there is a huge organization working with different parts of the transition since a couple of years back. They have even sorted out what might happen with all the litter, old TV-sets and how to take care of it all.

A year ago I visited NAB, FCC and stakeholders in D.C. When asked if there was or would be some kind of a hub that would manage the U.S transition – everyone tilted their heads, had a short silent look at me and said: “Well you know United States doesn´t work like that”. I guess one proof of that is FCC now seeking to refine its role in the transition as such.

Anders Bjers

Public DTV Information Campaigns to Start In December ´07

July 26, 2007

Today’s hearing in the U.S. Senate put some limelight on the event that will affect about 20 million U.S households. Good news is that NAB will launch public announcements airing in December, according to LA Times. Mainstream media reported from the hearing focusing on the deep concerns that Senators expressed today.

Reuters headlines its piece: Many in the dark about TV switch: U.S. lawmakers.

Fox News carries the story from AP headlined: Senators Worried About TV ‘Train Wreck’

The L.A Times business reporter Jim Puzzanghera write that Senators decries the present conditions among TV-viewers. The efforts that are made this far by the Government and Government agencies are to few and very late. Senators raised concerns that voters/ consumers would call them and not the stakeholders in the TV industry if the transition backfires.

Reactions in the blogosphere follows the same beat. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica writes about the problems seniors will face because of the transition. Since the group above 50 watches TV more than 5.5 hrs a day and their generally low understanding of the transition and converter boxes. Anderson writes that “you have the conditions for a perfect storm”. He also writes ads:”Disgruntled seniors are unlikely to storm Washington with torches and pitchforks, but they are a powerful voting bloc”.

Multichannel News reporter Ted Hearn, writes that the DTV transition scares Senator McCaskill (D-Mo). She finds the transition is already tomorrow by Governmental standards. And the Senator ads “There is no anger that comes close to the anger of an American who can’t get television.” writes Hearn.

NAB estimates that there are about 69 million analog TV-sets in U.S. households that can go dark on February 17, 2009. NTIAs converter box coupons will only suffice for 33.5 million converter boxes with the budget that are expected. NAB also estimates that 60% of consumers are not aware of the transition to DTV as of today. But even these figures varies among stakeholders.

I find it remarkable that the facts about TV viewers still are unclear. It is one thing if people know about the transition date as such. But the core challenge to manage is to make consumers understand what to do or if they are affected at all. For me this hearing is a benchmark for the status of the transition. I really don’t expect that politiceners will know the details of the transition. And I do really wonder what the politiceners can come up with to turnaround the present state of the transition.

In my view there is no one else better suited for the mission than the TV industry. They have the real ways and means to make the transition smooth and successful.

Their secret tool?

Anders Bjers

Public Meeting About DTV Coupons In D.C

July 19, 2007

On September 25 at 9 A.M. NTIA will hold a public meeting about the DTV Coupons program that will be launched in connection with the U.S. transition to digital TV. The meeting will also offer a chance to discuss the progress of the efforts to educate the public about the Digital-to-Analog-Converter Box Coupon. The public meeting is to be held at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
Anders Bjers