Kicking the DTV Tires


It isn’t just members of Congress and the Barack Obama transition team who are keeping a keen eye on the DTV transition.

I have it on good authority that Japanese broadcaster NHK will be sending someone to the U.S. in February to see how the DTV transition is effected over here..

They are plainning to put together a report, checking in with broadcasters, the FCC, NTIA, NAB and consumer electronics stores.

That is because Japan is making its own transition to digital July 24, 2011.

There is some irony, or is it karma, in Japan looking to us for guidance on the transition to clearer TV pictures. It was almost the other way around.

NHK had an early ananlog HDTV system that might well have been the U.S. standard had digital not come along at exactly the right time. The FCC was under some pressure to go with an analog-sideband HD system (broadcasters would have had to supplement their existing spectrum allocations with extra bandwidth to accommodate all that picture information). Analog was the only game in town–in the mid-to-late 1990’s and there was pressure not too lag behind the Japanese as they made their way toward analog HD. 

But in 1990, an HD industry advisory committee headed by Dick Wiley (yes, that Dick Wiley), was vetting various analog systems, including NHK’s, when a proposal for a newfangled digital transmission sytem from General Instrument got in just under the wire.

While NHK’s system produced beautiful pictures, it was analog, and bandwidth-hungry to boot. Wiley and company went with the elegance of the digital system, which was much more bandwidth friendly, but NHK’s MUSE system was too far along, so Japan stuck with analog for its HD.

Let’s hope the NHK report is headlined by the success of the transition, though it will take government action and broadcaster vigilance and a little viewer patience, rather than hope, to insure that will be the lead on their story of  the Feb. 17, 2009, transition.