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Open Mike

Déjà vu, All over again

Editor: Your story on the NxtWave/Zenith solution for DTV ("A two-in-one fix for digital TV," Oct. 1) is the reason for this letter. The public statements made by the "spin masters" at these two companies and reported by yourself in the article cause me to be reminded of the very similar statements made by these same folks over two years ago. At that time, they were responding to the Sinclair Broadcast Group's petition to the FCC to allow both 8-VSB and COFDM. Matt Miller of NxtWave made the public pronouncement that the problems with reception of 8-VSB DTV were all solved and broadcasters need not worry about multipath distortion anymore. He was referring to his just released 8-VSB-receiving chip, later known as the miracle chip, a miracle that never came to pass. Zenith was also heard from and said there was nothing wrong with the ATSC standard. It was just an early-receiver problem. Both of these positions have been shown to be wrong and misleading to the entire industry.

Today, it has been shown conclusively, and we now all know that the Zenith-created ATSC 8-VSB standard does not meet broadcasters' requirements and that the ATSC, as mentioned in your article, is seeking ways to improve the standard so that it may some day meet minimum broadcast industry requirements.

It is somewhat ironic that the two companies that fought any effort to honestly evaluate the ATSC standard and attacked anyone who attempted to speak out are, by their own self-promotion, once again claiming to have a solution in hand. Can anyone blame them for trying to protect their patent values and royalties? The question that remains unanswered is, at what cost to the technical possibilities for broadcasters in the future? Perhaps you should have included a little history lesson in your piece to better balance the story and put things into perspective. Zenith and NxtWave are the last companies who should be making premature claims of success.

In any case, the ATSC process continues, and I was pleased to see that you did mention that there are others who believe that they have solutions and hold a different opinion than Mr. Miller and Zenith's Richard Lewis. Sinclair demonstrated to the entire industry in a public fashion over two years ago that the proof of a reception solution for 8-VSB is in the field-testing. It is entirely premature for anyone to make any claims about a solution before a public scientific field test is performed. That is a task that the ATSC is going to undertake. After that effort is complete, it may be appropriate to make claims similar to those of Zenith and NxtWave, but not before.

—Nat Ostroff, VP, New Technology,
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Baltimore

Technically speaking

Editor: I was a little surprised at your article ("New York stations are back," Sept. 24) regarding what New York-area television stations have done since the main transmitting site was tragically destroyed on Sept. 11.

You state that a number of New York-area television stations are using a tower in Alpine, N. J., located about 15 miles southeast of Manhattan. I thought that strange, since southeast of Manhattan is open Atlantic Ocean. I checked my MS Streets and Trips 2001
software and find that there is an Alpine, N.J., near the intersection of routes 502 and Henry Hudson Drive. It is located north northwest of Manhattan.

You, later, state that "satellite TV reaches another 5.3% of the homes but carries only a handful of the most popular stations." What a full handful that actually is. DirecTV carries WCBS-TV, WNBC(TV), WNYW(TV), WABC-TV, WWOR-TV and WPIX(TV). That's all six of the commercial VHF stations in New York. These probably account for at least 90% of the local audience for over-the-air broadcasts. In addition, DirecTV carries the national feeds for Pax, PBS, TBN as well as the East and West Coast feeds for both Univision and Telemundo.

Other than a little local news on the two Spanish-language stations and what little local programming WNET does, what major coverage do you think is missing? WNYE and WLIW with minuscule audience shares, carry a fair amount of PBS programming, and there a few other fringe, tiny-share UHF stations. So, contrary to carrying "only a handful" of stations, DirecTV provides spectacular coverage for the New York market.

—Joseph B. Martin, Los Angeles

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