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Under Digital TV, PBS Lost in 4 Major Cities. Progress?

As I’ve told you, here in the center of Columbus, Ohio, the 15th largest city in the nation, I cannot receive an over-the-air digital TV signal for PBS, although I was able to obtain an analog PBS signal in the same spot.

I’m not alone.

Jacob: “Same problem in Kansas City… We no longer get PBS which is mainly what we watch.”

najee: “Same here down in colorado springs colorado pbs is shot.. Its like they fell off of the face of the earth along with all our favorite shows… now I don’t watch tv period… its a shame and a waste of a converter box.”

ken wade: “I am in downtown Manhattan and have always enjoyed a crystal clear signal from Channel 13 (PBS), as I am in direct line from the Empire State Blding’s broadcast signal. Now that I have installed the box I get only NBC, CBS, ABC, fox, and a few other commercial stations I do not wish to watch, but a ‘No signal’ from all PBS stations.”

Rachel Diez: “Here, from the Bronx (NY), I would like to report identical situation as Jim in Ohio: There’s no digital signal for PBS either. And PBS is the only channel I am interested in.”

Keep saying “upgrade.”

4 comments to Under Digital TV, PBS Lost in 4 Major Cities. Progress?

  • qs

    idk if I ve ever watched it

  • John Stracke

    It’s not just PBS; all TV stations have shorter range than they did in analog (unless they invest in a more powerful transmitter). I don’t know the details, but, apparently, how a radio signal propagates depends on the modulation scheme; and the new scheme is completely different from the old.

    In particular, ATSC (the US’s digital TV protocol) is more susceptible to multipath interference than DVB (used in most of the rest of the world). Multipath is when the same signal reaches your receiver along two different paths, which usually means the two signals aren’t in sync (because one path is longer than the other); this usually happens when the signal bounces off, say, a building, which means it’s more likely in cities.

    In analog TV, multipath used to show up as ghosting, where you’d see two versions of the image on your screen, one fainter than the other. In digital TV, multipath just winds up corrupting the bitstream, until there’s nothing that the receiver can decode.

    However, in the absence of multipath, ATSC provides longer range than DVB, which means ATSC works better in rural environments.

    So, the choice came down to rural vs. urban residents. The US, with a large portion of the population in rural environments, chose ATSC; the EU, with an urban majority, chose DVB.

    Personally, I’d say the FCC should have rejected both ATSC and DVB, and insisted that the industry develop a digital standard that actually worked better than the analog standard it was replacing.

  • John Stracke

    It turns out that there is a solution: with digital TV, it’s possible to extend the coverage area with multiple synchronized transmitters. (This wasn’t really possible in analog TV, because synchronizing an analog signal was much hairier. At least one station tried it, but it led to ghosting problems.)

    Unfortunately, the original ATSC standard didn’t support synchronized transmitters; the tech was developed starting in 2003, for an experimental station at Penn State. It wasn’t until November 2008 that the FCC issued rules to support it, so stations weren’t ready by the time they had to turn off their analog transmitters.

    Over the next few years, though, I’d expect more TV stations to start using synchronized transmitters to fill out their coverage areas. At present, the extra transmitters cost about $100,000 apiece; but that should come down over time, like anything else in electronics.

  • Jacob

    PBS just installed a new system in KC. Everything is working perfectly now. It’s actually the best channel at this point

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