Digital TV and High-Definition TVStarting later this year in the top ten markets, TV stations will begin transmitting using new Digital TV technology. Then stations in smaller markets will begin Digital transmissions.
Why should you care?
Eventually (by 2006 or so), The FCC will revoke all existing analog TV licenses. When this happens, your current TV and VCR will no longer work, unless you buy a converter box. Of course the TV/VCR industry would prefer that you buy a brand new TV and VCR (or several of them in fact).
The current TV system (called NTSC) requires 6 MHz of bandwidth to transmit the video and audio information. Since High Definition TV (HDTV) contains more information, a larger bandwidth would be required if conventional techniques were used. Instead, it was decided to completely change the transmission format, to compress the HDTV signal into the existing 6 MHz channels. This is completely opposite to the approach the FCC took in the 1950's, when color TV was introduced. Then, they required that the new format be compatible with existing B&W TV sets.
To ease the effects for consumers, there will be a changeover period, when stations will transmit using both the older analog format, and new new digital format. All TV stations are being assigned new Digital TV channels (there is a list at the end of the document). Eventually, (in around 2006 or so) stations will be forced to surrender their analog TV licenses.
Congress passed a law stating that TV stations will not have to pay for the radio spectrum the new Digital TV stations will require (unlike all other current commercial radio users, such as cellular phone carriers, paging services, etc), in order to help spur HDTV deployment and acceptance.
But a funny thing happened...
The new Digital TV system also has a second mode. Instead of transmitting one HDTV signal, four or five TV signals, of quality comparable to existing TV, may be sent. Several large TV station groups have publically announced that they will not implement HDTV, but instead will transmit several lower resolution signals instead. Obviously this is because four of five TV channels will bring in more money than just one HDTV signal.
By the way, by being exempt from paying for their portion of the spectrum, the TV stations are getting out of paying an estimated $70 Billion in fees, according to US Senator McCain-AZ.
These are the existing and new channel assignments for the Baltimore/Washington DC area.
The percent coverage column indicates how much of the existing coverage area will be covered by the new channels. Be careful when considering this number, it is not realistic. It only speaks of a stations "official" coverage area, and does not include viewers in so called "fringe reception" areas, who no doubt will lose reception of the signal.
Also, bear in mind, when you watch a weak analog TV station, you get a picture with some noise or static in it. With Digital TV, if the signal drops below a certain level, you will completely lose the picture and audio!
New Digital TV Assignments for the Baltimore / Washington DC Area
State City Current New Percent coverage MD ANNAPOLIS 22 42 96.3 MD BALTIMORE 2 52 98.0 MD BALTIMORE 11 59 98.5 MD BALTIMORE 13 38 99.6 MD BALTIMORE 24 41 99.8 MD BALTIMORE 45 46 99.7 MD BALTIMORE 54 40 99.9 MD BALTIMORE 67 29 98.4 MD FREDERICK 62 28 99.4 MD HAGERSTOWN 25 55 99.2 MD HAGERSTOWN 31 44 99.5 MD HAGERSTOWN 68 16 99.9 MD OAKLAND 36 54 100.0 MD SALISBURY 16 21 100.0 MD SALISBURY 28 56 99.5 MD SALISBURY 47 53 100.0
State City Current New Percent coverage DC WASHINGTON 4 48 98.9 DC WASHINGTON 5 6 82.9 DC WASHINGTON 7 39 99.0 DC WASHINGTON 9 34 100.0 DC WASHINGTON 20 35 97.0 DC WASHINGTON 26 27 96.9 DC WASHINGTON 32 33 97.7 DC WASHINGTON 50 51 99.8
State City Current New Percent coverage VA ARLINGTON 14 15 97.7 VA FAIRFAX 56 57 98.9 VA MANASSAS 66 36 99.0
State City Current New Percent coverage PA HARRISBURG 21 4 96.3 PA HARRISBURG 27 57 95.1 PA HARRISBURG 33 36 99.0 PA LANCASTER 8 58 98.8 PA LANCASTER 15 23 95.4 PA PHILADELPHIA 3 26 99.9 PA PHILADELPHIA 6 64 98.1 PA PHILADELPHIA 10 67 98.2 PA PHILADELPHIA 17 54 93.8 PA PHILADELPHIA 29 42 95.8 PA PHILADELPHIA 35 34 98.2 PA PHILADELPHIA 57 32 99.6 PA RED LION 49 30 99.9 PA YORK 43 47 97.0
A complete listing of HDTV assignments can be found on the Broadcasting & Cable web site.
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email@example.com Chris Smolinski Updated 24 August 1997