SCTE Body Wants Input on Forced-Tuning Issue

Exton, Pa.-The Society of Cable Telecommunications Digital Video Subcommittee is establishing standards for the delivery of digital-television services by cable.

As part of its work, the subcommittee said last week that it wants information on whether there is a need for a new SCTE standard for a capability known as directed channel change, or forced tuning.

Work is under way within the Advanced Television Systems Committee T3S8 standard that could lead to the adoption of a standard for use by television broadcasters for a capability known as directed channel change.

Such a capability-which might be embodied as an amendment to the PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) standard-would consist of a syntax whereby a broadcaster could send commands to optionally equipped digital-TV receivers, directing those receivers to change from one program to another within a 6-megahertz channel, or to change from one channel to another.

A number of useful applications would be supported by DCC. A broadcaster could transmit multiple, zoned versions of local newscasts and direct viewers' digital-TV sets to tune to the proper version for their locations. Similarly, commercials could be demographically zoned.

This capability is similar to "forced tuning," as it has been used on analog cable systems.

Accordingly, the DVS requests responses to the following questions:

  • Whether there is a need for standard syntax to allow cable operators to direct subscribers' set-top boxes or cable-ready digital-TV receivers to tune to particular channels or programs within channels.
  • Whether such a function should remain as a proprietary specification within the out-of-band channel.
  • Whether there is a need for a standard syntax to send such commands across the point-of-deployment interface.
  • What features, functions and capabilities should the syntax support?
  • Whether there is existing intellectual property that covers such a capability.
  • Whether there are public or private deployments of technologies similar to DCC, and will DCC conflict with these deployments?
  • Given the limited resources of the SCTE DVS and the deadlines associated with Federal Communications Commission-mandated decisions, what priority and what likely schedules should be assigned to the DCC-standards work?
  • And whether there are privacy, discrimination or other legal or regulatory policies that might be adversely affected by the implementation of DCC.

The subcommittee wants to conclude this part of the standardization process quickly, and it seeks responses by June 30. Responses should address the questions listed, and they may include any other relevant information.

Responses, including names and appropriate contact information, should be submitted to: Ted Woo, SCTE, 140 Philips Road, Exton, Pa., 19341-1381. Telephone: 610-363-6888. Fax: 610-363-5898.