FCC rejects petition to alter DTV modulation standard

The argument over the digital TV standard will continue, though the FCC tried to put it away Feb. 4 [2000], unanimously denying Sinclair Broadcast Group’s petition to permit the use of a different transmitter modulation scheme. Public TV has taken no official position on the issue — engineering managers in the system are divided on the issue.

Though informal Sinclair tests found that first-generation DTV receivers have trouble getting pictures with indoor antennas, the FCC said in its letter to the Baltimore-based station chain, “we believe that Sinclair has done no more than to demonstrate a shortcoming of early DTV receiver implementation, rather than a basic flaw in the ATSC standard . . .” [text of letter].

But the FCC said it will also consider Sinclair’s argument “together with all the issues related to the digital transition” in a biennial progress review, starting early in March. The commission probably will seek comments for a rulemaking, says staffer Bob Calaff.

John Tollefson, PBS’s chief technology officer, agreed with the FCC’s expectation that DTV receivers will continue to be improved. “I think it’s going to work just fine,” he said.

But Sinclair is not convinced; it’s lobbying Congress to make sure that the FCC “conducts a meaningful review of the entire standard,” says spokesman Mark Hyman.

RELATED LINK

Background: Uneasy dilemma for public TV: Stick with DTV standard?

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