Whos to blame for DTV woes?


National Cable Television Association President Robert Sachs last week suggested that broadcasters' demand for digital must-carry is just one more example of how they try to shift the blame for DTV troubles to others: cable, the government and receiver manufacturers.

"If broadcasters want to promote and hasten the digital transition," Sachs told cable executives in New York, "they should figure out how to make their over-the-air digital technology work, and they should develop digital programs that people want to watch."

The DTV implementation is not going well. Broadcasters are still looking for a viable business plan, and most now agree that the DTV transmission standard-8-VSB-does a poor job of delivering signals to mobile receivers or those with indoor antennas.

The National Association of Broadcasters thinks it would help if the must-carry law required cable systems to carry not only analog signals as it now does but also the DTV signals. Cable wants none of it. "A dual-carriage obligation would impose costs on cable operators, unfairly discriminate against.[cable] networks and diminish the choice of programming available to cable subscribers," Sachs said.

The law should require cable to carry one and only one signal from each local TV station-be it HDTV or SDTV, analog or digital, Sachs said. If broadcasters want dual carriage, they should negotiate with operators for it as some successfully have, he said.

Sachs also tweaked broadcasters for their interest in using DTV spectrum for datacasting rather than HDTV: "It seems that HDTV now stands for Hustling Data to Viewers."