Pocket protectors, unite!

The NAB board may have decided not to ask for a delay in the DTV rollout schedule, but that's because they didn't have to. It's a given.

From what we can determine, the principal obstacles, though not the only ones, to broadcasters' conversion to digital by the FCC's deadline are a lack of sets, towers, programs, cable carriage, interoperability standards, clear transmissions receivable by an indoor antenna, and enough time to resolve all of the above. You get the picture—or don't, if it's 8-VSB and you've got a big building in the neighborhood.

The deadlines—2002, 2006—are history, even if the FCC is keeping them around for appearances' sake. While it's reorganizing, the FCC may want to create a new Digital TV Waiver Bureau just to handle the paperwork. Why not just change the deadlines and be done with it? It would save a lot of trees.

Meanwhile, the broadcast industry has to become more aggressive in addressing the technical problems. And the way to do that is to listen to LIN's Gary Chapman. A couple of weeks ago, as chairman of the Association for Maximum Service Television, Chapman called on the industry to fund a TV Lab on the order of the successful Cable Labs. Its first order of business: Figure out how to improve DTV transmission and reception. Great idea. Only thing is, MSTV has no money and most broadcasters these days aren't inclined to spend anything that won't produce a return on investment before the monthly budget reports are due.

The fact is that whether a TV Lab gets off the ground is really up to the NAB. It has $85 million sitting in the bank, the accumulated profits of its annual convention. The NAB, we believe, should back the lab, insisting only that its mission be expanded to include all of broadcasting—radio, as well as TV. With Chapman and others making the case, we believe it will.

Now, if broadcasters could only get Cable Labs' Dick Green to jump ship.

Fear factor

Attorneys for Citadel Broadcasting's KKMG(FM) Pueblo, Colo., and noncommercial KBOO-FM Portland, Ore., are coming out swinging in their fight against a disturbing trend in government censorship, which means any such trend. Both are filing strongly worded appeals of FCC decisions to fine their stations for indecency violations. Citadel told the FCC last week it was wrong in its reading of the law and wrong in its application and is threatening entire genres of musical expression. KBOO-FM was preparing to tell the commission that it was basing its decision "solely on its
views of offensiveness and its
view of merit [emphasis theirs]" and not according to the context of the broadcast or the contemporary community standards it is required to take into account. "To punish a station for the broadcast of officially disfavored subject matter is the essence of governmental censorship," it concluded. We couldn't agree more.