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Open Mike

That Buggy 8-VSB

EDITOR: I am sorry to see that you have missed the point of SBG's efforts ("Hit the showers," Jessell's column, Feb. 19).

It was SBG that discovered the problems with 8-VSB over two years ago. It was SBG that took the political risk and the punishment to bring the matter to the attention of our sleeping and technically naive industry. It was SBG that spent the money to mount demonstrations, in the public eye, to make our points. Without SBG's efforts, there would be no general recognition today that 8-VSB needs to be fixed.

The ATSC has developed a document that details broadcasters' requirements and has put a request out on the street for proposals for improvements to 8-VSB. The NAB resolution that favored 8-VSB also said that dramatic and rapid improvements to 8-VSB need to take place. Do you really think that any of these developments would be taking place if SBG had remained silent and kept its own council?

David Smith and the rest of our organization have no financial interest in COFDM. We only used it to show how ineffective 8-VSB was and how a second competitive standard might cause a more rapid rollout of DTV. In fact, Bruce Franca of the FCC's OET stated recently in print that "SBG deserves kudos for their efforts, which advanced the rollout of DTV by several years."

I am disappointed that you saw fit to continue an attack on SBG when it is clear that we do not deserve such treatment. We want and demand a transmission standard that replicates today's NTSC reception and coverage. It is now time for the 8-VSB proponents to produce that result. Anything less will not be acceptable and will eventually cause the demise of our industry.- Nat Ostroff, vice president, new technology, Sinclair Broadcast Group

EDITOR: There are now four different COFDM/8-VSB tests starting or about to start in North America. None of these were a go before the MSTV's rigged test results were published. There is now more activity across the board in favor of COFDM than there was before the MSTV tests.

You suggest that the controversy over COFDM and 8-VSB is over. You're wrong: 8-VSB doesn't work, and an RFP from the ATSC that looks like a spec sheet for COFDM will not make it work.

There is a lot of pressure to stop any real testing of COFDM on the North American continent. The only one that I can mention is the one in Toronto. Now we hear of Argentine testing about to begin. It sounds as if they are going to do a rigorous test with a "real" COFDM receiver from Nokia. It will be interesting to see how the ATSC and Zenith wiggle out of this one, attempt to change the rules or try to ignore it. The fix has to be in or they will lose big time, and they know it. This is the same Nokia receiver that the MSTV rejected for testing in Washington, D.C.

The results in Argentina and Toronto-and other places-I predict will be an indictment of the MSTV test.

It is ironic that we usually point at many other countries as being corruptible by special interests. But in this case it was many other countries that have had and are having scientific and above-board testing done between COFDM and 8-VSB. We didn't. -Bob Miller, president, Viacel Corp., New York

Survivor: The Evening News

EDITOR: I was pleased to be among those who honored CBS' Don Hewitt at the recent RTNDF First Amendment dinner. With appropriate respect to his award and his stature in our industry, I am among those who disagree with the premise of a generic, all-network evening news program.

Like BROADCASTING & CABLE's P.J. Bednarski, I disagree with Don's recommendation that the networks consolidate their evening newscasts. Can you think of yet another way to reinforce the attitude of viewers that television news suffers from a sameness that makes it difficult to grow our news audiences? Audience development begins locally with the station's reputation for its news programs, local and network.

For those of us in the station news business who think sharing of content via NNS is a bad idea-Don's concept is the evening news extension of a concept that does away with old-fashioned news competition. I would agree with Don that 60 Minutes took hold because there was no competition in the time period. However, the other networks did not surrender and walk away from the challenge of producing good newsmagazines because of the success of 60 Minutes.

Perhaps network news executives should consider extending Hewitt's concept beyond the evening news. Let's consolidate 60 Minutes, 20/20 and Dateline into one blockbuster weekly newsmagazine. Mike, Morley, Charley, Diane, Barbara and Jane would work every third week.

Once we establish the premise of the all-network newsmagazine, we could run a Survivor competition to choose the solo anchor for this program. Each week, the rotating hosts would vote one of their peers off the program. The winner would be awarded the newsmagazine hosting role and a guest slot on the Bill O'Reilly show on FOX.

We can do away with competition, news anchors, and station and network identity in one joint project. We could call it GNN: Generic Network News. We'll bring Ted Turner back to run it, and we'll sell our video to local stations.

As for the survivor, my money is on Barbara Walters. -Fred Young, senior vice president, news, Hearst-Argyle Television