I want my HDTV

Boy, did I kick over a hornet's nest with my August editorial "Kill the 8VSB Frankenstein." From some of the e-mail I received, you'd think I was going to take away everyone's HDTV set. (The few that there are!)

I knew the editorial was going to upset a lot of people. What surprised me, however, was the number of consumers, but few broadcasters, that provided feedback. I really enjoyed the comments, both supportive and critical. For those that took me to task: I haven't changed my mind. 8VSB is still the biggest reason DTV hasn't been successful. If we'll just dump 8VSB, we can put the DTV train back on its tracks.

Apparently, the August editorial was posted to a home theater enthusiast website, so the consumer types were first to respond. These guys came after me with a vengeance. Collectively they shouted, "You're just trying to take away my HDTV!" Unfortunately, most couldn't separate the technological facts from their emotions.

Some critics claimed I was paid by Sinclair to write the piece. I wasn't. Some claimed I was a propaganda machine for the broadcasters who don't want DTV. I'm not. Others claimed I made up the material. Fortunately, I didn't need to. The truth about 8VSB is bad enough. From the letters, it's obvious that consumers equate HDTV to DTV. These guys didn't buy their receivers for "digital" they bought them for HDTV.

On the other hand, many of these consumers aren't stupid. They know about the 8VSB/COFDM controversy. And, it's obvious that it is their experience that forms their opinion. In other words, they may not be studied in the technology, but at least they've experienced it.

These consumers have made an investment in DTV and they are staunch supporters of keeping DTV technology as it is. They are quick to criticize the networks and local stations for not promoting HDTV and for not creating more HDTV programming.

These folks are passionate about their hobby and some have spent heavily on it. As one writer said, "I have $6000 invested in HDTV equipment, and I intend on getting my money's worth out of it." However, its important to realize that today's HDTV/DTV consumers are but a microscopic cell of the total TV audience. Clearly, anyone who suggests any change that could delay this technology risks being labeled a heretic.

Fellow broadcasters responded quite differently to my editorial. These professionals, to a writer, admitted that COFDM was at least a strong candidate technology, if not the outright best methodology for DTV. These fellows obviously were more familiar with the technology so they often quoted dBs and coverage areas. However, there is one very interesting point to note: Not one broadcaster respondent admitted to owning an HDTV receiver.

That's a disappointing fact. Why doesn't our own leadership invest in HD? In fact, I've never met a chief engineer who'd bought his own HDTV set.

By the way, I'll bet you dinner in DC that our fearless FCC leader Kennard hasn't invested in HDTV either. If he's so pro-DTV, why doesn't he pony up $6000 for his own set? Then he could watch standard TV delivered by cable and DVDs because digital broadcasting isn't carried by cable.

I will give the consumer guys credit. They love their hobby and they've invested their own money in it. So maybe that does give them something the rest of us don't have, the right to vote. The problem is, they're still voting for a loser.