News - September 2002 Issue

1) Spy Photos Transmitted In The Clear 2) APTS Pushes Homeland Security 3) Going, Going, Gone! 4) KPSP Heads Home 5) Schneider Goes West 6) New SMPTE Digital Test Material 7) Tech Gets Kinky 8) Roll Commercial

Spy Photos Transmitted In The Clear

The Pentagon, in responding to reports that virtually anyone could tune in live spy plane transmissions over the Balkans routed through a Telstar satellite over Brazil to the U.S., has admitted that it routinely transmits unencrypted video images via commercial satellites but was confident that NATO forces were never harmed by anyone picking up unclassified data feeds. Cheryl Irwin, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said, "The U.S. military does not send or transmit classified information by unsecured means." When classified information is involved, it is safeguarded from "unintended access," she said.

"It must be emphasized that on any occasion when operational security must be at a higher level than commercial transmission using unencrypted signals permits, the appropriate systems and processes are used to convey video imagery by secure means," Irwin said. "Raw video is information but information does not equal intelligence."

In June, a senior Pentagon official told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications that the Defense Department was investing in new technologies designed to use scarce airwaves more efficiently for military data. The research includes adaptive spectrum usage, frequency and bandwidth agility, phased-array antenna configurations, interference mitigation techniques, congestion control technologies, and networking projects.

In London, a British satellite enthusiast, John Locker, said he had spent the last seven months alerting NATO and U.S. military commanders to the free availability of pictures from manned spy planes and drones but was always told: "So what?"

--Michael Silbergleid

APTS Pushes Homeland Security

With technology demonstrations held on Capitol Hill in June, the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) has launched a campaign to establish a national network for homeland security, which would use part of the digital broadcast spectrum allotted to public television stations.

The APTS, a nonprofit corporation that supports PBS member stations and represents their interests before federal agencies, hopes the idea will encourage continued federal funding for the conversion to digital broadcasting that was mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The homeland security concept has already caught the attention of some members of Congress, and former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director James Lee Witt is consulting with APTS on the project.

"We think it's another reason that federal support should be provided for the digital conversion of public stations," said John Lawson, president and CEO of APTS. "The opportunities that have been created by our new digital datacasting channels are truly revolutionary, and we intend to put them to good use."

Think of it as a variation of the FCC's Emergency Alert System (EAS) for the PC. In the event of a hurricane, for example, this system would deliver emergency information to PCs equipped with a DTV tuner card.

But this digital pipeline could provide much more information than a crawl across the bottom of a television screen. This system could include escape routes, weather maps of affected areas, and other information that could be helpful in an emergency situation. Encrypted messages and addressable technology are also possible, so sensitive information could be distributed using the network as well.

Realistically, Lawson admitted, a truly national security network could take years. However, almost 80 public stations are broadcasting digital signals, which provides coverage to more than half the U.S. population. With minimal equipment required for broadcasters to participate, Lawson said the concept "could have an impact for a lot of people almost immediately."

Lawson said the APTS wants to see language in homeland security legislation that speaks to the network capability of public broadcasters and helps "ensure our stations have a seat at the table when state and regional plans are developed." He'd also like to see federal funding for further testing that could lead to a national system.

--Mark J. Pescatore
special from Government Video

Going, Going, Gone!

Former Antiques Roadshow antiques dealer Russell Pritchard III was recently sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to repay $830,000 for staging phony appraisals on the PBS program, produced by WGBH Boston.

Philadelphia prosecutors charged that Pritchard made between $800,000 and $1.5 million defrauding Civil War memorabilia collectors by giving them low appraisals and then reselling the items at a much higher price and keeping the difference. Pritchard could have been sentenced to up to 135 years in prison and fined more than $5.2 million. Antiques Roadshow's appraisers are chosen through recommendations from major auction houses.

WGBH stopped using Pritchard in early 2000, when irregularities surfaced.

KPSP Heads Home:

KPSP, Palm Springs, the first new station (and the first CBS affiliate) in the Coachella Valley in 38 years, signed on the air earlier this month from their new multimillion dollar digital facility. Designed by Digital System Technology, of Irwindale, CA, KPSP's new digs include a high definition production studio and two mobile digital production trucks.

Schneider Goes West:

Schneider Optics ( www. has announced that all maintenance and repair of Schneider lenses will now be performed by Schnieder's Century Optics division in the company's North Hollywood facility.

All Schnieder motion picture and television lenses needing service or repair should be sent to Century Precision Optics, Attention: Service Department, 11049 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91601.

New SMPTE Digital Test Material

The D-1 Format Digital Video Library of Uncompressed Digital Video Test Sequences, which was prepared by the SMPTE ( Ad Hoc Group on Television Evaluation Materials, is now available. Available in 525/60 and 625/50 formats for the subjective evaluation of digital equipment and systems, the tape contains digitally restored and repaired versions of the most widely used of the scenes specified in International Telecommunication Union Recommendation ITU-R BT.802-1, "Test pictures and sequences for subjective assessments of digital codecs conveying signals produced according to recommendation ITU-R BT.601."

Included are "Mobile and Calendar," "Flower Garden," "Kiel Harbour 4," and others. The 625/50 version includes new scenes from Radio Televisione Italiano (RAI).

Tech Gets Kinky

VideoFreedom's ( www. video "sub-frame conditional access" might not sound sexy, but the newly patented technique can take that R-rated movie and turn it into PG-13.

Essentially, VideoFreedom provides for metadata encoding to be placed into video frames by content producers and distributors to control access to explicit material (or any material) within a frame. This means that you can watch a movie with violence, profanity, and nudity, while your kids can watch the same movie later with the violence, profanity, and nudity blurred and bleeped out. The process can be reversed, and adult channels can be telecast "covered up" for everyone to see, but only paying subscribers get the full "adult" content.

The blocking of visual images can be set at different levels, with higher levels resulting in more extensive blurring.

--Michael Silbergleid

"Roll Commercial"

nCUBE ( and Lifetime Movie Network have deployed the first digital program insertion (DPI) system utilizing the DVS-253 (ANSI/SCTE 35 2001) cueing standard for digital ad insertion.

The DVS-253 standard defines cue messages that notify insertion systems of where and how to insert digital advertising without analog cue detection equipment. DPI provides cable operators the ability to better address the untapped revenue opportunities of local advertising as they migrate to digital programming.