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DUE DILIGENCEYou’d Better Start Caring

Now that NAB is over, it seems that the industry is all abuzz over HD. Everyone loves HD—even HD (see page 36). Folks watched the NCAA championship games in HD during NAB. HD was everywhere. And in a good part of the country, HD is even on-air.

Have you watched HD lately? Not in your control room but at home...your home, your buddy’s home, even the waiting area in your station? Not quite up to snuff, is it?

It’s the little things: color balance (especially between scenes), switching from the network feed to your local avails and back again, lip sync, and other minor irritants. Unfortunately, these are little things that folks who have paid a lot of money for HDTV sets (and for a way to receive HD signals) also notice. That’s when the “fun” begins...for them.

First, they talk amongst themselves:
“Did you see The Agency in HD last night? Was the color a bit off?”
“Yeah...what was that?”
“And the program information was wrong on the EPG.”
Then they call their local CBS affiliate:
“Hi. Who can I talk to about your high definition signal?”
“One moment please.”


The silence is usually because the receptionist has no idea who the caller should speak to about your high definition signal. Eventually, the receptionist verifies that high definition, HD, high def, digital television, and DTV are, as far as she is concerned, all the same thing, and transfers the engineering. Oh, the poor bastard on the other end of the phone who called!

Two things can now happen. Either the caller will get the voicemail of someone in the engineering department and leave a message, or the caller will get a human being.

I’m not sure which is worse.

Let’s take an example that actually happened to an HDTV over-the-air viewer that I know. At two different stations he got the human being in engineering...unfortunately.

Voicemail has its advantages: People have left their message and believe (hope and pray) that someone will listen to it and just possibly care enough to do something about whatever it is that the message was about.

Human beings, however, usually like to pass the buck.

In the first instance, the response from Mr. Engineer to his station’s HD viewer (you know, the one with the desirable demographics that advertisers love—the ones you’ve probably already lost to premium cable) was, “Yes...OK...I see...thanks for calling.” Click.

Now, maybe the caller was nuts, but the caller is also your viewer, and you, Mr. Engineer, are now the DTV customer service representative for your station—like it or not.

The second instance was better (at least from a how-to-annoy-our-viewers perspective). The receptionist connected the caller to engineering and someone picked up. The caller was told that the person in charge of HDTV (now that sounds like a cool job) was at another station in the group and given his name and phone number. So the viewer called the other station long distance, was transferred to engineering and was told that the HDTV Czar was at yet another station in the group.

Well, what’s one more phone call? In for a penny, in for a pound. The viewer called station number three, was transferred to engineering, where the caller was then transferred to...voicemail.

Now, how hard would it have been for the engineer at the first station to return the call? Or the engineer at the second station? Nope. Instead, the station (or actually all three stations) now has someone who is only too glad to log on to all those wonderful H/DTV forums on the Web, telling everyone what a bunch of morons they all are.

Do you care about the handful of folks watching H/DTV? Does your station have a procedure for handling calls regarding H/DTV? You’d better, because being good at H/DTV is just like having the best the eyes of your viewers.

Jonathan Bellows is a contributing editor. He can be reached at: