To make sure fuzzy pictures don't break up the transition to digital TV, broadcasters and TV-set manufacturers have launched a joint effort to establish guidelines for DTV receiver performance.
By working together, the sides have called a truce in their fight over the need for government performance requirements for digital receivers.
The guidelines will be developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee.
ATSC said last week that it plans to issue draft guidelines in first quarter 2004. The ATSC is a private, industry-funded group given the charge by the government to develop technical specifications for digital television, including helping develop the current transmission standard.
The guidelines will spell out recommended performance levels for adjacent-channel interference, multipath signals, receiver sensitivity and other areas. "The challenge is to seek the right balance," according to ATSC President Mark Richer. "Whenever you look at performance, you have to seek a balance because a certain level of performance in one area can have a detrimental affect in another."
TV stations hope the ATSC's effort will allow them to put aside their demand for FCC receiver standards, according to Lynn Claudy, technology chief for the National Association of Broadcasters. "We're guardedly optimistic. If successful, this will fulfill everyone's needs." NAB had asked the FCC to establish receiver performance requirements to ensure that reception problems won't dampen consumer enthusiasm for buying DTV sets.
Equipment makers counter that privately negotiated guidelines will give flexibility necessary for developing new products. "We've always said receiver standards should be set by the marketplace, not government fiat," said Consumer Electronics Association spokesman Jeff Joseph.
The FCC has launched an inquiry into the need for receiver standards. Comments on the inquiry are due July 21; replies, Aug. 18. An inquiry is generally followed by a formal proposal for FCC rules if the commission determines that there is a need. A successful ATSC effort, however, may eliminate the need for the FCC to take that next step.