Two Seattle Stations Plan To Test High-Definition TV
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 96 17:23:16 -0800
Subject: Two Seattle Stations Plan To Test High-Definition TV
[For once Microsoft may be on the side of the angels... Maybe? ...
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TWO SEATTLE STATIONS PLAN TO TEST HIGH-DEFINITION TV
-- by Chuck Taylor, The Seattle Times
As the broadcasting and computer industries fight each other and the
federal government over a proposed new technical standard for
television, two Seattle stations -- KOMO-TV (ABC) and KCTS-TV (PBS) --
are poised to test it next year.
KOMO-TV on Wednesday announced it is seeking a license from the
Federal Communications Commission to test so-called high-definition
television (HDTV), which renders a wider picture with photographic
clarity -- about twice the resolution of today's TV.
"The difference is as startling as when TV switched from black-and-
white to color," said Dick Warsinske, KOMO-TV's general manager.
Earlier this month, KCTS said it also will test HDTV early next year.
The new signals, emanating from the same towers but on channels
separate from the stations' main ones, won't be of any use to regular
viewers. They are intended to test the technology.
But the separate experiments make Seattle a hotbed for developing
Ironically, Seattle also is the epicenter of computer-industry
opposition to the proposed new TV standard, which was developed over
eight years by a consortium of broadcasters and TV-technology
companies called the Grand Alliance.
Redmond-based Microsoft has led a last-minute attempt by the computer
industry to block the new standard.
Television screens use one method of rendering an image and computer
screens employ another. The computer industry contends its method
would make the inevitable convergence of the two mediums
Next week, the various parties will begin talks to try to work out
KOMO-TV would be the third American station with a commercially held
HDTV license. The others are a test channel run by WRAL-TV in Raleigh,
N.C., and a test station in Washington, D.C., operated by a consortium
of commercial broadcasters.
KCTS is one of four public-TV outlets in the country to be granted
HDTV licenses. The others are Portland-based Oregon Public
Broadcasting; WETA-TV in Washington, D.C.; and WMVS-TV/WMVT-TV in
Milwaukee. WGBH-TV in Boston plans to seek a license, too.
KOMO's test initially won't involve pictures, said Don Wilkinson,
director of engineering for parent Fisher Broadcasting of Seattle.
"We'll be sending out digital bits and looking at them with
instruments that measure the amount of errors that may occur in the
process of transmission," Wilkinson said. "But as we get our feet wet
it is our goal to be transmitting honest-to-god pictures."
Digital transmission, which already is employed by home-satellite
systems, involves the conversion of TV pictures and sound into 0s and
1s -- the language of computers. Today's TV signal is an imprecise
analog standard that is highly susceptible to interference and
The difference between digital and analog TV is akin to that between
compact audio discs and cassette tapes.
The PBS stations will test transmission on donated hardware using
satellite-fed programs from PBS.
Some of that programming was produced by KCTS, which has been
experimenting with HDTV for a decade. "Over America," among other
productions, was shot with Japanese-developed HDTV equipment and
converted for broadcast by the present-day standard.
Outside of Washington, D.C., Seattle for now is the only city with two
experimental HDTV stations.
"I hope we can work cooperatively with KOMO, since we're neighbors in
the same town," said Burnill Clark, president of KCTS.
While public television has long seen HDTV as a natural enhancement to
its arts-and-sciences-oriented programming, commercial broadcasters
have resisted it, advocating the option to transmit multiple
standard-definition programs over a single digital signal --
increasing the potential for advertising revenue.
KOMO not only is advocating a focus on HDTV but is investing in it
before nearly anybody else.
"Our decision is ... consistent with KOMO-TV's history of leadership
in the broadcasting industry," said Patrick Scott, president of Fisher
Broadcasting. "KOMO-TV was the first in the Northwest to broadcast
live in color and to provide television stereo sound."
Copyright (C) 1996, Seattle Times Co.
© 1996 Peter Langston