It seems that all of the big bad television station owners are out to fleece the general public of $200 billion dollars. They are going to do this by making every television set in the United States obsolete. Just how this benefits the stations owners is difficult to see. I don't think I have ever bought a television set from a TV station. As the end of the current system of broadcasting is fifteen years after the beginning of the new system every television set currently in existence will be over fifteen years older than it is now. I suspect most will be ready for replacement by then.
In fact most television stations are wondering how they are going to be able to afford the change-over. Estimates of what it will cost to do minimum HDTV broadcasting is in the range of one million dollars. Things like a new HDTV transmitter, a new tower or modification to an existing tower, transmission line, microwave channels begin to add up. A million or two may not be too much to a Washington DC, Los Angles or New York television station, but to the vast majority it is a nice chunk of change. Just like the chicken or the egg question, do you spend a million dollars to broadcast signals that no one owns sets to receive or do you wait until people have purchased enough sets that have no stations to pick up?
Mr. Greve also makes much of the fact that the stations want a second channel assigned to them without charge for the fifteen year transition. Mr. Greve appears to feel it is fair to require a television station change its operation to a new standard, maintain the old standard for fifteen years and charge them for the privilege of doing so.
FCC Chairman Reed Hundt is quoted in the article as asking "Does the audience want to go on this journey?" I wonder where Mr. Hundt and Mr. Greve were when Congress was talking to everyone in the broadcast and computer businesses? Did they somehow miss that event? Of course that was back in the days of a Democratic Congress and when Japan bashing was all the rage. Japan had a HDTV system. Congress worried that Japan was going to rule the world.
Mr. Greve appears to see evil in the fact that broadcasters want a fifteen year transition and good in the fact that the Clinton administration wants to take back the existing channels in seven years. How is it bad for broadcasters to obsolete every television set in America in fifteen years and good for Clinton to do it in seven?
Mr. Greve also talks about other services wanting the broadcast spectrum and the fact that they pay for it. Broadcasting has lost spectrum. Remember when television sets went up to channel 83? They don't anymore. (Cable channels don't count.) When this fifteen year transition is over channels 2 through 13 will be removed from the broadcasting spectrum. I guess they will join channel 1, the first to go. All television stations will be between channel 14 and 69. While the majority of stations will be forced to move to other frequencies again Mr. Greve wants them to pay for the privilege.
When FM radio appeared none of the existing radio receivers in the home could receive it. When Great Britain transferred from 405 line black and white television to 625 line PAL system in use today they had to go trough the same dual broadcast system. 405 line transmission is dead today. No one misses it.
I suppose Mr. Greve would be happy if we all huddled around our tube-type AM radios with our TRS-80 Radio Shack Model 1 computers and stayed there. Surely he requires that his column be typeset in hot metal on an old Linotype machine.