MSTV Returns Fire Over DTV Coverage Gap Claim

DTV signals will not cover the same ground as analog signals, a New York research firm says. Centris unveiled research this week saying there are “serious gaps in digital TV signal coverage across the country.”

It was blasted by the Maximum Service TV Association, a Washington, D.C., broadcast lobby focused on technical issues, and dissed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin at a Valentine’s Day hearing on Capitol Hill.

Centris said it tested DTV coverage in ZIP codes of “several large markets,” at 5-mile intervals in a 60- to 75-mile radius of the TV towers in the markets. The results indicated there was “little continuous coverage beyond 35 miles” using indoor receivers.

“For consumers living in problem areas where broadcast gaps exist, installing a sophisticated roof-top antenna is a possible option but signing up for a cable, satellite or telecom video provider is the only guarantee that their TV sets will continue to work,” the firm stated.

Centris estimated that 40 million households get over-the-air analog TV on some 117 million sets, a number far higher than figures proffered by the NAB, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Government Accountability Office.

MSTV chief David Donovan said the study was “misleading” and not realistic. He said the firm conducted “paper analysis” using the CEA’s antenna Web site for St. Louis, Las Vegas and Philadelphia, rather than signal strength measurements in those markets. Centris also erred by failing to make comparisons to analog reception, Donovan said, and it misinterpreted the CEA Web site, which recommends larger amplified antennas for households 30 or more miles from a tower, or separated from it by high terrain.

Households in remote areas that use an outdoor antenna for over-the-air analog reception will be able to use the same antenna just as effectively for digital reception, Donovan said.

Chairman Martin, testifying at a DTV progress hearing before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, also noted that the Centris survey considered only indoor antennas.

Dr. Barry Goodstadt, senior vide president of Centris, said, “this is an incorrect reading of the study. In point of fact, 75 to 83 percent of consumers have indoor, set-top antennas, about 10 percent have omnidirectional antennas and about 10 percent have directional antennas. Thus, our findings actually suggest that consumers will receive better coverage than might actually be the case.”