HD marches on

Bullied engineers, DTV over digital cable and HD marching on, in this month's Reader Feedback column.
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Bullied engineers

To Paul McGoldrick:

Your take on engineers is right-on. We are decent professionals, all trying to work hard and make a living for our family and ourselves.

One reason we are bullied, in my opinion, is that management sees the engineering budget as a black hole that absorbs money. There is no way to “quantify” our importance, at least in the same way that salespeople are evaluated: They either make budget, or they don't.

In my case, the general manager without my input set recent expense budgets for 2004. His rationale was that the money I have to operate four radio stations was based on revenue projections. He felt $2,500 per month for parts and supplies was more than enough. I tried to point out that a single tube replacement at just one of the FM stations could take that whole amount. Nevertheless, he insisted that I make it work, and that other chief engineers were making do just fine. I guess the message was clear: Make it work, or be replaced.

I think that's why engineers can be bullied. We're thought of as a commodity that can be easily replaced, and we're afraid of losing our jobs.
Name withheld on request

HD marches on

Yes, AMEN I say to you, Brother Brad! The relentless march of progress goes on! FOX network has seen the light. NFL games, movies, and prime-time shows are looking good. Now let's complete the last mile — local affiliate owners and cable/satellite providers. Comcast Cable is doing a great job, but let them not give into the evils of over compression. Thou shalt not mess with the 19.2Mb/s carrier!

Keep fighting the good fight!
Bob Zajko
HD believer since 1998

DTV over digital cable

The article written by Bill Zou of Harmonic on “DTV over digital cable: Reaching a larger audience” in the August 2003 issue of Broadcast Engineering is very good, very informative and very well-written.

However, at one point the article states that: “And, to preserve program-guide information from the incoming PSIP, the equipment modifies the PSIP to reference the new PID numbers. Since this additional processing adds to the cost of the grooming equipment, some cable operators might opt to drop PSIP altogether.”

However, the NCTA-CEA “plug and play” agreement of February 2000 included a commitment to pass through PSIP data for in-the-clear channels. This agreement was reaffirmed in a December 2002 letter to the FCC signed by a number of the major cable MSOs (including Cox, Charter, Time Warner, Comcast and Insight) and a number of major CE manufacturers. Thus, some of the smaller cable operators may opt to drop PSIP altogether, but most of the major MSOs have agreed not to do that.
Gomer Thomas
Triveni Digital

Bill Zou, Broadcast Solutions Marketing Manager for the Convergent Systems Division at Harmonic responds:

Traditionally, cable MSOs have been reluctant to pass-through PSIP data for the digital broadcast channels just because it represented additional headend cost and it was not technically required for their subscribers. However, the latest developments in regulation may shift the way cable MSOs view PSIP. In September 2003, the FCC decided to adopt the “plug and play” agreement between the NCTA and the CEA from February 2000. This agreement requires cable MSOs to pass-through PSIP data for in-the-clear channels. This ruling, together with the expected proliferation of DTV sets with integrated tuners and lower-cost headend PSIP processing, will encourage cable MSOs to pass-through PSIP.
Regards, Bill Zou

Job loss

To the Editor:

I find it hard to believe that you would support the FCC's push to further station consolidation. You must not talk to many folks that you don't see at NAB. The issue is job loss. The fact is that laying people off saves money, props up earnings, makes shareholders (the folks you DO see at NAB) happy and feeds the juggernaut that we call technology.

The New York Times Company Digital Operating Center runs about 11 stations from a control room in Norfolk, VA. Is it technically feasible? Yes. Is it cost-efficient? Yes. Is it humane? Not to the people that lost their jobs over it. And the operators that work at the DOC are simply asked to do more for the same pay. I know they stopped coming to our SBE luncheons when we raised the price to $10 per person; I don't know any of them that own HD sets either.

I realize that technology will progress whether we want it to or not. I don't advocate that we should return to the days of 3-person camera crews or one operator per tape machine. My point is that so many technicians already work for janitorial wages. Job loss through consolidation just puts the actual mop in their hands.
Charlie Farr
Independent Contractor
Virginia Beach, VA.

July Freezeframe:

Q. What cable television company announced in 1998 that it planned to downconvert 1080i HD broadcast signals to 480p to save bandwidth (calling that format “HDTV”)?

A. TCI

August Freezeframe:

Q. Identify these two cleverly named winners of a 1997 Pick Hit award: What automation product reminded NAB attendees of “Area 51”? What storage product's name was out of this world?

A. The Odetics Roswell facility management system and the Pluto Technologies Space digital video recorder

Winners:

July - Tom Alderson, Garen Braun
August - Vicki Kipp, Garen Braun

Test your knowledge!

See the Freezeframe question of the month on page 6 and enter to win a Broadcast Engineering T-shirt.

Send answers tobdick@primediabusiness.com