Stations oppose House “down conversion” plan

TV stations are up in arms about a U.S. House of Representatives plan that would allow cable and satellite TV operators to down convert their HD programming for delivery to subscribers.

Senators and leaders of the House received letters from a group of network affiliates complaining about language in H.R. 5252 that would allow down conversion with quality that's “little better than analog.” H.R. 5252 is the House version of pending telecommunications legislation.

“It would be like allowing a third-party competitor to convert color TV to black and white,” the stations said in a letter to the legislators.

The House telecom bill would allow multichannel programming providers to “down convert” digital broadcast signals until Feb. 17, 2014, the stations complained. This, they argued, would shortchange consumers who purchased HDTV sets.

The affiliates, representing ABC, CBS, NBC and Telemundo, do not oppose SD resolution down conversion to analog receivers because “it would protect against viewer disenfranchisement.” Their argument is with down conversion of HD to SD signals.

Another argument by the stations is that the down conversion provision would give pay operators an unfair advantage for their own programming “with all of the rich audio and video quality of HDTV,” while downgrading the HD signals provided by broadcasters.