1 MEETING OF THE
2 ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INTEREST OBLIGATIONS
3 OF DIGITAL TELEVISION BROADCASTERS
8 Friday, January 16, 1998
21 Mt. Vernon Salon
22 Madison Hotel
23 15th and M Streets, N.W.
24 Washington, D.C.
2 LESLIE MOONVES, Co-Chair
3 NORMAN J. ORNSTEIN, Co-Chair
4 CHARLES BENTON
5 FRANK M. BLYTHE
6 PEGGY CHARREN
7 HAROLD C. CRUMP
8 FRANK H. CRUZ
9 ROBERT W. DECHERD
10 WILLIAM F. DUHAMEL, Ph.D.
11 ROBERT D. GLASER
12 PAUL A. LaCAMERA
13 GIGI B. SOHN
14 KAREN PELTZ STRAUSS
15 CASS R. SUNSTEIN
16 LOIS JEAN WHITE
1 C O N T E N T S
2 ITEM PAGE
3 Technology of Digital Broadcasting and
4 The Implications for New Programming Service 7
5 Closed Captioning and Video Description
6 of Broadcast Programming 104
7 Natural Disaster Information Systems 135
8 (Afternoon Session p. 150)
9 Educational Programming in the Digital Era 154
10 Statement of Gordon Ambach, Executive
11 Director, Council of Chief State School
12 Officers 158
13 Statement of Janet Poley, President,
14 American Distance Education Consortium 166
15 Statement of Marilyn Gell Mason, Director,
16 Cleveland Public Library 174
17 Statement of Fred Esplin, General Manager,
18 KUED-TV, Salt Lake City, Utah 181
19 Statement of Gary Poon, Executive Director,
20 Digital Television Strategic Planning
21 Office, PBS 187
22 Committee Discussion of Future Agenda 228
23 Public Comments, Questions and Answers 243
24 Closing Comments 246
1 P R O C E E D I N G S
2 (8:53 a.m.)
3 MR. MOONVES: Could we get started, please?
4 Good morning. Welcome to our third meeting of
5 the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of
6 Digital Television Broadcasters. I think we have an
7 exceptionally packed day today, with four different panels
8 coming in.
9 The first one, Technology of Digital
10 Broadcasting and The Implications for New Programming
11 Service. The next will be a briefing on Closed Captioning
12 and Video Description of Broadcast Programming. Then
13 there will be a briefing on Natural Disaster Information
14 Systems. There will be a lunch break and then Peggy
15 Charren will head a group on Educational Programming in
16 the Digital Era.
17 So there is a lot to do today. I urge everybody
18 to participate. The following members will not be here
19 today -- Barry Diller, Jim Goodman, Richard Masur, Newton
20 Minnow, Jose Luis Ruiz, and James Yee. Cass Sunstein will
21 be here late. However, most of them will be hooked up by
22 the Internet.
23 A little bit of housekeeping before I turn it
24 over to my partner and colleague, Norm Ornstein. The
25 following three meetings will be -- the next meeting will
1 be in Los Angeles, California, because I'm tired of
2 traveling across the country so I need one near me, and
3 Frank agrees. The University of Southern California
4 Annenberg School for Communication has offered to be our
5 host, and actually for one of the reasons that we wanted
6 to go outside of Washington. They would like to
7 participate. They feel they want to open it up and bring
8 their students in, and I think it will be terrific.
9 So the Dean, Jeffrey Cowen, has graciously
10 offered to be our host, and he sent me a letter which I'll
11 get you a copy of. I will be happy through my office to
12 find some hotel accommodations that are near there and we
13 will organize that.
14 The following meeting will be in Washington, D.
15 C. once again, and then the meeting after that will be in
16 Minneapolis, and Mr. Crump will be hosting us. Do we have
17 those dates, Karen, of the new few meetings set up?
18 MR. DUHAMEL: Les, the meeting on Tuesday, the
19 14th of April, is the Tuesday after Easter, and one of the
20 reasons we tried to set these meetings up on a Friday or
21 Monday was because of travel to stay over Saturday night.
22 Well, I think it's an imposition to be gone from home on
23 Easter and to be here for that meeting I'd have to travel
24 on Saturday and be in Washington on Easter, and I really
25 prefer to be with my family.
1 MR. MOONVES: I totally understand that. That
2 sounds valid. Let's relook at the dates. I think that's
3 a very valid point, Bill.
4 The next meeting will be Monday, March 2. As
5 Bill just said, we are scheduled for Tuesday, April 14.
6 We will take another look at that. And the Minneapolis
7 meeting is scheduled right now for Monday, June 8.
8 As we mentioned at our last meeting, a letter
9 will be going out shortly from Norm and myself to the
10 White House requesting an extension. By the next meeting
11 we should know exactly how long that extension will be so
12 we can sort of plan when we plan on doing the report and
13 going from there.
14 After lunch we will begin to talk about what our
15 agenda will be for the next meeting. So I think that is
16 basically it. Norm, why don't I turn it over to you, sir?
17 MR. ORNSTEIN: Thanks very much, Les.
18 A couple of announcements. We are being
19 broadcast live on C-SPAN. For our viewers at home, if
20 things are a little bit fuzzy it's because it's in analog.
22 MR. ORNSTEIN: We also have NHK, the Japanese
23 public broadcasting with us. And I'm proud to announce
24 that the proceedings of this meeting, as I hope our future
25 meetings, can be heard on audio over the Internet, thanks
1 to Rob Glaser of RealNetworks. And for people who want to
2 follow us in this fashion they can go to one of two sites
3 -- www.ntia.doc.gov, and there is a link right there to
4 the Advisory Committee, or you can turn to the
5 RealNetworks page, because it's the RealNetworks company
6 that's arranged this, and that is www.real.com, and go
7 directly there by doing www.real.com/corporate/digitaltv/,
8 and follow us if you don't want to watch on television or
9 are unable to do so.
10 So we aer making technology work in some fashion
11 for us at least this morning.
12 I want to thank Robert Decherd for generously
13 providing lunch for us today and also note that this
14 afternoon we will have to have some discussion, as we've
15 already done, of the site for the meetings of the agenda
16 we want to follow. We really need to asses, without
17 knowing exactly how much time we have left, nevertheless
18 where we go. And we probably want to very seriously think
19 about moving in a more expeditious way towards considering
20 solutions, and after some extended time today, a
21 particularly rich day, getting information, gathering
22 information and viewpoints.
23 But we will start now by looking at a little bit
24 more of the technology of digital broadcasting and the
25 implications for new programming services. This panel has
1 been put together for us, doing lots of different duties,
2 by Rob Glaser, and I will turn things over to Rob.
3 TECHNOLOGY OF DIGITAL BROADCASTING AND THE
4 IMPLICATIONS FOR NEW PROGRAMMING SERVICES
5 MR. GLASER: Thanks, Norm, and thanks, Les, and
6 welcome to everyone on the committee. We have a very good
7 panel this morning for you to discuss the question of
8 technology as it relates to digital television. We took a
9 rather broad view of the technology area to cover in order
10 to give committee members a full understanding of the
11 technology environment in which digital television will be
12 playing out.
13 We wanted to really address fundamentally what
14 would happen with digital television, and that's the main
15 focus of our first two presentations, really, but we also
16 wanted to put it in the context of the other developments.
17 There are a number of developments happening with
18 satellite, with cable, and Internet delivery. So our
19 panel is designed to cover all of those issues in the time
20 we have available. Obviously there are tradeoffs between
21 comprehensiveness and breadth and we tried to strike a
22 good balance.
23 I am very pleased with the panelists that are
24 joining us today. They represent a very, very strong well
25 of expertise and knowledge, and I'm sure you will find
1 their insights very valuable.
2 Our first speaker is Bruce Allan, the Vice
3 President and General Manager of Harris Corporation's
4 Broadcast Division. Mr. Allan is a pioneer in the
5 development of digital television. Today he heads
6 Harris's worldwide broadcast operations and leads the
7 company's digital TV business. Prior to joining Harris,
8 Mr. Allan was Vice President of Thomson Video Products
9 Division, and then Vice President of Technology and
10 Business Development for Thomson Multimedia. In that role
11 he represented Thomson on all of its activities for the
12 Grand Alliance consortium, which developed the technology
13 upon DTV is based.
14 And Mr. Allan's efforts to get a DTV standard
15 adopted resulted in an Emmy Award from the Academy of
16 Television Arts and Sciences.
17 Harris Corporation itself is a very broadbased
18 provider of broadcast and radio equipment and leader in
19 the develop of DTV. Six of the seven experimental DTV
20 operations of the first ones in the United States were
21 based on Harris's technology. Harris's educational
22 initiatives include publishing the Complete Guide to
23 Digital TV, airing the first live high definition
24 broadcast of a major league sporting event, and fielding
25 the Harris/PBS-sponsored DTV Express, a 40-city tour and
1 road show consisting of seminars, a mobile DTV station,
2 and demonstrations in futuristic living room and classroom
3 settings in order for people to get a perspective on what
4 is happening with DTV.
5 Without further ago, I'd like to introduce Mr.
6 Allan to present his thoughts on what's going to happen
7 with DTV.
8 MR. ALLAN: Thank you very much, Rob. It's a
9 pleasure to be here this morning and be able to share with
10 you some information that we have which at Harris we view
11 as measurable progress toward the implementation of
12 digital television in the marketplace.
14 MR. ALLAN: What I would like to do this morning
15 is go through the implementation mandate, the first cities
16 that will be there, which basically sets a reference
17 point, share with you the results of a broadcaster survey
18 that we recently conducted that will give you some
19 insights into broadcasters' plans, attitudes, and current
20 status regarding the implementation of digital television,
21 review some of the key implementation issues, be they real
22 or perceived, that have been talked about over the last
23 six months, and then give you a quick overview on receiver
24 availability and what was shown at the Consumer
25 Electronics Show last week.
1 In doing that I think we end up setting the
2 stage for many of the new programming services and many of
3 the new capabilities that my colleagues will report on
6 MR. ALLAN: If you look at the mandate, which I
7 think many of you are familiar with, obviously the first
8 26 stations are to be, on a voluntary basis, up and
9 operating in November of 1998, which now we're really
10 talking only ten months from now. So digital television
11 is definitely becoming a reality.
12 That is shortly followed by the network
13 affiliates in the top 10 markets by May of '99, which says
14 there will be at least a minimum of 40 stations up and
15 operating in May of 1999, the top 30 markets by November
16 of '99, which says a minimum of roughly 120 stations, and
17 then all the commercial stations by mandate must be up and
18 operating, at least passing a digital signal, by the year
19 2002, and then the PBS stations must be up and operating
20 by 2003.
22 MR. ALLAN: The next chart simply gives you a
23 quick look at the locations of those first 30 markets, and
24 what it really says is that 30 percent of the households
25 will have access to a digital television signal by May,
1 1999, an additional 20 percent, or a total of 50 percent
2 of the households will have access to approximately three
3 digital signals by the end of 1999.
4 So by the time we get to the end of 1999 a very
5 large percent of the U.S. population has access to digital
6 television signals.
8 MR. ALLAN: If we now go to the actual survey,
9 Harris had originally conducted a survey regarding
10 broadcaster attitudes and plans in October of 1996. This
11 December we repeated a similar study so that we would have
12 the ability to track shifts in DTV plans and attitudes and
13 identify any emerging trends that were resulting from
14 broadcasters' plans as they were moving toward market
16 The survey consisted of 401 TV executives that
17 were surveyed during a telephone interview. That
18 represents roughly 480 stations, because of multiple
19 ownership. And the people interviewed were definitely
20 qualified as people that aer directly responsible for
21 making the decisions on implementation of digital
22 television. So we made very certain that we were talking
23 to the people that have to actually implement this
1 MR. ALLAN: If we look at the overall findings
2 in summary, it becomes very interesting from our
3 perspective, and I think from your perspective.
4 Broadcasters are moving even faster than the FCC requires,
5 and some of the data that you'll see in a minute will
6 support that.
7 They are addressing issues intelligently,
8 logically, realistically. They're getting very involved
9 in equipment -- what they have, what they need, how they
10 can roll it out, how they can go ahead and make the
11 transition from analog to digital. And some of the other
12 results when we looked at some programming questions, it's
13 becoming more obvious that they're planning to use the
14 full potential of DTV to better serve communities and to
15 offer a wider selection of programming than they do today.
17 MR. ALLAN: If we look at the first question, or
18 how likely are stations to adopt DTV in the next five
19 years, we find that 66 percent of those stations indicated
20 they are very likely to be up and operating within a 5-
21 year time frame. Another 27 percent said somewhat likely.
22 And we believe the "somewhat likely" response is most
23 likely due to questions regarding tower implementation,
24 equipment availability, things that the broadcaster
25 himself does not necessarily control that could impact his
1 ability to be in the marketplace on a timely basis.
2 So 93 percent of the broadcasters have said they
3 expect to be up and operating prior to the year 2002.
4 That includes many PBS stations, which says the
5 broadcasters are really running, from an overall average,
6 ahead of the plan that was originally laid out by the FCC,
7 which should be encouraging to all of us.
8 The 7 percent of the stations that said they
9 were not likely to do it at all tended to be in markets
10 that were smaller than the top 100 markets, and with
11 financial implications that's most likely not a surprise
12 at this point in time.
14 MR. ALLAN: If we go to the next one, which is
15 another encouraging slot, which talks about can
16 broadcasters afford the cost of conversion, in 1996 only
17 42 percent of the broadcasters claimed they could afford
18 the cost of conversion to digital television. A year
19 later, 66 percent of the broadcasters are indicating that
20 they can afford that transition, which means an increase
21 of roughly 157 percent versus the previous study.
22 Obviously a lot of that is a result that
23 equipment is not at the $10 million to $12 million that
24 people had talked about originally. Now that equipment is
25 going into production, costs are becoming more realistic.
1 The broadcasters indicated that they felt on average the
2 conversion cost would be in the vicinity of $5.7 million -
3 - still a lot of money, but a significantly different
4 number than they were looking at 12 to 24 months ago when
5 many of these issues were discussed.
7 MR. ALLAN: So we basically said they're going
8 on an accelerated schedule. They're finding it more
9 affordable than they initially thought, and getting
10 confidence that they could do it. Now we're looking at
11 the channel utilization potential. And, as most of you
12 know, the system has a tremendous degree of flexibility.
13 You can do one high definition program with
14 theater quality sound, video and 6-channel surround sound.
15 You can do multichannel broadcasting. Here we've said
16 five standard definition programs -- it could be six,
17 seven, or eight, depending on the broadcaster's definition
18 of quality on programming and picture quality. It can do
20 And the thing that gets lost most times is that
21 the system is capable of doing a combination of these
22 services at the same time. You can do high definition and
23 you can still do data. You can do five channels of
24 multicasting and still do data. You could most likely do
25 two movies in high definition and have some opportunistic
1 abilities to do some other services.
2 So the flexibility often gets lost, but it says
3 that the things that are up there are not mutually
4 exclusive. You can do many of them at the same time,
5 depending on the way you actually handle the bit stream.
6 And that's obviously the decision of the broadcaster on
7 how he programs the channel.
9 MR. ALLAN: One of the interesting things, while
10 there's still a great deal of uncertainty with
11 broadcasters about how they will actually utilize and
12 finally program those digital channels, is that when we
13 looked at it we had about 44 percent of the broadcasters
14 who said they weren't sure exactly what they would do with
15 programming at this time, and 33 percent said they
16 definitely wanted to do multicasting, 23 percent said that
17 they definitely would do high definition.
18 But when you cut through all the data -- and the
19 next two charts I think are the most indicative -- it said
20 that the majority of broadcasters are leaning toward doing
21 high definition programming during the prime time hours,
22 which is very encouraging, because that says the American
23 public will get exposure to high definition television,
24 and the flexibility built into the system and the
25 utilization by the FCC can be used experimentally to find
1 out what the marketplace wants and let the marketplace
2 have a vote in programming.
4 MR. ALLAN: If we look at the next slide, what
5 you'll see is that, just the reverse, the broadcasters in
6 this survey are saying that they will do standard
7 definition -- which I'm interpreting as multicasting --
8 during daytime hours to try and expand the programming
9 capabilities and do numerous things. So we're getting
10 confirmation of many of the things we guessed at as a
11 result of the survey that we've seen.
13 MR. ALLAN: The next one is one that is
14 interesting and this supports the fact that the
15 broadcasters are reacting to providing more public service
16 and to trying to serve their constituent base even better
17 than they are today. If you look at the program, you'll
18 see that as far as how they will use the multicasting
19 programs, there's a much higher degree of response here
20 that they'll use it for news, additional information
21 services, and local affairs content.
22 So it is becoming something with a lot more
23 local content, a lot more directed at trying to serve the
24 local audience in ways that have not been possible in the
2 MR. ALLAN: When we look at the broadcasters'
3 reaction to digital receivers, obviously they're looking
4 at it from the standpoint of how can they make the market
5 grow the fastest. And their biggest concern is, without
6 question, how can they have consumer electronics
7 manufacturers keep the costs of digital receivers as low
8 as possible.
9 The other elements of promotion obviously pale
10 by comparison relative to the concern there. And when I
11 talk about sets, we can address that one a little bit.
12 The question is how quickly can the consumer
13 electronics manufacturers drive down the cost of sets?
15 MR. ALLAN: The final chart really that deals
16 with the broadcaster survey is a simple one that we asked
17 do you hope that digital TV will become a reality. And in
18 1996 only 72 percent of the broadcasters indicated that
19 they hoped it did. Now that we're a little farther along,
20 we get 83 percent. So we are again getting a more
21 positive reinforcement out of the broadcasters.
22 So we find the survey very encouraging. Things
23 are moving along. We think things are tracking the way
24 they should be at this point in time.
1 MR. ALLAN: The next chart really talks about
2 implementation issues, and there's no question that the
3 transition to digital television will face many problems,
4 will have hurdles to overcome. If we had looked at this
5 chart six months ago, we would have most likely had a very
6 different reaction to whether these are problems, and
7 that's why I've labeled it Perceived DTV Implementation
8 Issues, because what's happening, the closer we get to
9 market implementation, the more and more problems and more
10 and more hurdles that people will be finding technical
11 solutions to.
12 If we look at channel allotments, which is the
13 biggest hurdle right now, Commissioner Ness at the CES
14 meeting indicated that the FCC expects to have channel
15 allotments finalized and done by the end of this month.
16 That really turns on the marketplace and lets my company
17 start selling transmitters to broadcasters, because then
18 they know that the channel allocations are real, they are
19 firm, and they will start placing orders for transmitters,
20 which are obviously the key to starting the launch of
21 digital television.
22 One of the issues that broadcasters have had
23 over the last 24 months is the availability of digital
24 equipment, because much of it was being invented, created
25 and developed while we were creating the standard. It
1 didn't exist as product per se.
2 And I put up three references. As far as
3 encoders, which was a big question six months ago, there
4 are 14 different manufacturers who have indicated they
5 will have encoders available for sale at NAB. In the case
6 of distribution equipment -- switchers, routers, et cetera
7 -- so signals can be transported through the studio, there
8 are 5 suppliers we know of today that will have equipment
9 available at NAB. And as far as storage medium, 5 to 7
11 So equipment is becoming less of a problem.
12 Prices are becoming more realistic as they become true
13 production products.
14 Another issue that came up as recently as the
15 consumer electronics show was how will people handle
16 program guides and channel numbers. Doing a little bit of
17 homework, I found out that the ATSC standard for channel
18 numbering and program guides has been officially adopted
19 and is now being balloted with the Society of Cable
20 Television Engineers, which says both the broadcast
21 industry and the cable industry will have agreed to
22 channel numbering for virtual channels with multicasting.
23 So that's one more problem that's solved.
24 Studio interfaces, a combination of ATSC work
25 and SMPTE work, is pretty well defined and set as industry
1 standards at this point in time.
2 Tower construction, still an issue for selected
3 broadcasters that has to be addressed. There's no
4 question about that one.
5 Must-carry, a big issue that the FCC has to take
6 action and determine what the proper policy will be
7 regarding must-carry.
8 When you get into interactivity and conditional
9 access, the standards are being worked on, and the ATSC
10 believes they will have them completed or at least
11 optimistically completed by the end of the year.
12 I think the key message on this chart is the
13 fact that many of the issues that were there have been
14 solved. There aren't really many technical issues that
15 are now in the way of launching digital television.
16 They're getting solved one at a time. They're getting
17 moved out of the way. And there's nothing that precludes
18 the introduction of digital television later this year.
20 MR. ALLAN: If we look at digital receivers and
21 take a quick look at what the consumer electronics
22 manufacturers showed last week at CES, 14 different
23 manufacturers demonstrated high definition receivers at
24 the Consumer Electronics Show. The majority of these are
25 very large-screen rear-projection sets, because that's the
1 quickest way to get to market with the highest quality
2 picture. And the consumer electronics manufacturers
3 believe that in '98, with 26 markets up, the most
4 important thing is to create consumer awareness and pull
5 people into retail stores so for the first time they can
6 see live demonstrations of high definition television,
7 digital television, and its true capabilities.
8 They all plan to expand their product lines in
9 1999, adding smaller direct view sets. 33- to 38-inch
10 screen sizes have been talked about. And the fact that
11 they will have set-top converters available in '99 for
12 anyone that wishes to purchase those and convert the
13 signal down to an NTSC signal or a component video signal
14 to show on current product.
15 One of the encouraging things that will help
16 drive the implementation of digital and high definition
17 television was the announcement by Thomson and Hughes
18 Direct TV that they would provide a high definition signal
19 on a nationwide basis with at least two to three channels
20 starting in the fall of this year. So instead of being in
21 10 markets this fall there will be national coverage,
22 which, one, provides more exposure to consumers, two,
23 provides a broader base for consumer electronics
24 manufacturers to sell product in and start to help prime
25 the pump for digital television.
1 The other announcement at CES was the fact that
2 Intel and Zenith are collaborating and working on a
3 digital TV decoder card for PCs so they can bring in again
4 another segment of the market into digital television.
5 The other thing that was there and it was talked
6 about is something that we put into effect last year and
7 has now come to fruition, the fact that the Consumer
8 Electronic Manufacturers Association has created a
9 certification program that ensures -- and all the
10 manufacturers who were on the floor said they were
11 subscribing to it -- that all 18 of the ATSC formats will
12 be decoded and displayed, which says there's never a
13 chance that the set will go dark because someone has
14 decided not to include one of those original formats.
15 So I think what we're seeing is some very
16 encouraging signs that the broadcasters are supporting
17 digital television. Broadcasters are to be congratulated.
18 They aer doing excellent planning and working forward and
19 moving to implement on a time schedule that's even quicker
20 than was originally required, and the set manufacturers
21 have made major investments to have sets available by the
22 fall of 1998.
23 So at this point in time we're very encouraged
24 that things are going right, that they're going on
25 schedule, and that all of us can look forward to
1 exploiting the potential of digital television starting in
3 Thank you very much.
4 MR. GLASER: Thank you, Bruce. That was
6 Our second presentation is from Josh Bernoff,
7 who is a principal analyst with Forrester Research.
8 Forrester is an independent market research firm based in
9 Cambridge, Massachusetts. Josh is the principal author of
10 a survey in the new digital TV area that Forrester put
11 together in the middle of 1997.
12 Josh's focus is TV technology and consumer
13 behavior. He comes from a background of about 15 years in
14 technology in interactive media. Without further ado,
16 MR. BERNOFF: Thank you, Rob. I'm glad to have
17 a chance to be able to address you folks on what we found
19 When I began to study digital television last
20 year and talked to people in all aspects of the television
21 industry -- from the consumer electronics manufacturers to
22 cable to broadcasters -- everyone told me it was
23 impossible to predict what the future of digital
24 television will be. I, of course, took that as a
25 challenge, and you're going to see the results of that.
1 The second challenge was when Rob told me I had
2 to present the results of that in ten minutes here. And I
3 think that's a challenge I may or may not be able to
4 grapple with.
6 MR. BERNOFF: Let me begin with who Forrester
7 Research is, for those of you who may not be familiar with
8 us. We are an independent research company. We have no
9 axe to grind here. Our only objective is to create the
10 most accurate predictions possible, because of what
11 Forrester is in business to do, which is to help our
12 client companies thrive on technology change. And that,
13 of course, depends on having unbiased, accurate
15 For about 15 years we've been looking at
16 technology futures, including futures of technologies like
17 the Internet, and now especially high definition
18 television, as that starts to creep onto the public stage.
20 MR. BERNOFF: What I'm going to be talking to
21 you about is the results of a survey that we completed in
22 July of 1997. This is qualitative research. I haven't
23 got 400 broadcasters that we've interviewed. We talked to
24 25 broadcasters at that time, but we also talked to senior
25 executives at broadcast networks, at the consumer
1 electronics manufacturers, people in the cable industry,
2 people producing television content, and folks in the
3 technology industry in an attempt to try and figure out
4 how this market was likely to develop.
5 So let me begin by telling you that everyone we
6 spoke to was at the same time grappling with the issue of
7 the costs and risks associated with this, as well as, to a
8 certain extent, hoping that there'd be some benefit for
11 MR. BERNOFF: At least in July of last year what
12 we heard in general was that people weren't quite clear on
13 exactly what the most wonderful aspects of digital
14 television were going to be for them. This is just an
15 example that reinforces what you heard from Mr. Allan,
16 that about half of the stations we talked to said that
17 they were going to be spending at least $3 million on this
18 investment, and there's more research of this kind in the
21 MR. BERNOFF: So let me begin now to talk about
22 what I think is the real result -- the prediction of the
23 future of digital television and what's going to happen
24 over the next ten years, which starts with, like any good
25 drama, a slow start, some pretty interesting plot twists
1 in the middle, and what to me at least was a surprising
2 ending for the broadcast industry.
4 MR. BERNOFF: Let's start with this year, with
5 1998. I think I don't quite share the optimism Mr. Allan
6 has about what you're going to see this year -- a pretty
7 inauspicious debut.
8 To begin with, I'm not as hopeful about all of
9 the 26 stations meeting their deadlines. Again, we talked
10 to a relatively smaller number of people but did some in-
11 depth interviews. The folks that I talked to at the
12 television stations were dealing with multiple business
13 issues, with technical issues, with issues like getting
14 towers built and getting FAA approval, delivery times on
15 transmitters and antennas. And I think that you're likely
16 to see the FCC get some requests for extensions on some of
17 those deadlines as this year dawns, but that's a matter of
19 That's not nearly as important as the fact that
20 the receivers that you're going to see are going to be
21 priced at a relatively high level. The first people to be
22 hit by this good news/bad news situation for digital
23 television are, of course, the consumer electronics
24 manufacturers. People like Zenith are already seeing the
25 big-screen sales are slowing down at this point while
1 people hold back and wait for digital.
2 But the digital receivers that we talked to
3 people about were rolling out at prices around $4,000. So
4 you're going to see relatively slow sales of all big-
5 screen sets, including digital sets, in 1998.
6 A lot of people have held out the computer as a
7 potential receiver for digital television, and we decided
8 to take a look at that and see whether PCs would
9 potentially be where an early audience would develop. And
10 it is indeed less expensive to create a card to deliver
11 digital television on a PC than it is to build an entire
12 television set to do it.
13 The problem is -- and when Nielson begins
14 measuring this I think it'll be clear -- that television
15 viewing on a computer is not the same as television
16 viewing on a TV set. You're going to have an occasional
17 and distracted audience that's of less interest to
18 advertisers. And for that reason I don't think that the
19 PC audience is going to be a significant factor in what's
20 being programmed on digital television for any time in the
21 near future.
23 MR. BERNOFF: Things get a little better over
24 the next three years as more stations begin to come on
25 line, there's more content, as the prices of the sets come
1 down. And I'm going to fast-forward to 2001 and give you
2 an idea of what I think that will look like. But before I
3 do that I want to talk about a little bit of a problem
4 that the broadcast networks and the broadcasters face.
5 And that problem is that when they are producing
6 both analog and digital programming they're going to have
7 to decide where to put their dollars and which kind of
8 programming to produce. Let me just give you an example
10 Suppose that you are producing, say, a
11 basketball game. Right now, in an analog television
12 world, the right thing to do as Michael Jordan runs down
13 the court, leaps in the air, and dunks the ball in the
14 basket is to point the camera at him and follow him as he
15 runs down the court, have a close-in shot.
16 Now, if you take that same camera work and
17 deliver it in digital format, you're going to lose some
18 things. One thing is that that rapid panning may induce
19 vertigo in the viewer. In fact, if you decided that you
20 were going to deliver the most appropriate version of that
21 picture for the digital television viewer, one thing you
22 might want to do is take a little bit wider shot -- have
23 him start all the way at the lefthand side of the screen,
24 run down the court, and leap up and dunk the ball on the
25 righthand side of the screen.
1 The problem is, if you take that same digital
2 feed and convert it to analog and now look at it on a 4x3
3 aspect ratio analog set, what do you see? Well, you begin
4 by seeing nothing. Then Michael Jordan runs into the
5 screen, and just as he's about to leap into the air he
6 disappears off the other side of the screen.
8 MR. BERNOFF: Now, to solve this problem the
9 people who are producing television have two choices.
10 They can create a separate analog feed and a separate
11 digital feed, perhaps using the same cameras but with a
12 separate director and a separate control room. You can
13 imagine the expense associated with that.
14 Or, they can shoot the game as if it were going
15 to be produced in analog, and in that situation the
16 digital receivers are not seeing anything that is
17 startlingly different from what they see now. It's
18 sharper, it's clearer, it's wider, but there's not a whole
19 lot of interesting stuff happening on the edges of the
21 That's what informs, I think, what you're going
22 to see when the set prices finally get down to the point
23 where people will be able to afford them.
25 MR. BERNOFF: In 2001 our expectation is that
1 there will be readily available digital TV sets at a cost
2 of around $500. And at this point we think about 3
3 percent of the households in the United States are likely
4 to have a digital TV set in that household.
5 But the interesting thing is when you look at
6 who is likely to buy those sets. This is not your average
7 consumer. This is a consumer who is interested in
8 television, who is willing to make the investment and pay
9 the premium to have a digital television set. And what
10 are these entertainment-focused people like?
11 Well, these are people who are much more likely
12 to have a satellite dish. They're much more likely to
13 have a surround sound system. These are people who are
14 into the television experience. And when they point that
15 expensive new television set at the broadcast channels,
16 what they're going to see is Seinfeld with a potted plant
17 in the corner.
18 The number of movies, for example, is one of the
19 things that are better in this widescreen, high resolution
20 format, will be limited to those movies that are on the
21 broadcast channels. And in fact what we think will happen
22 is that these people buying these TV sets in the early
23 years are going to want more, and they're going to be
24 willing to pay for it.
25 They're going to say give me a premium channel
1 and I'll pay for it if it's got really good programming
2 for high definition television.
3 Where will that programming come from? Well,
4 most likely we think it's going to come, in the early
5 years, from satellite. You heard that Direct TV is
6 beginning to put in high definition channels. The
7 satellite operators have the most channel space to be able
8 to have choices, so you'll begin to see premium high
9 definition channels appearing on satellite. And my bet
10 for the first channels that you will see are HBO, ESPN,
11 MTV because of the sound capabilities and, of course,
12 Playboy -- all the things that are going to be most
13 compelling and that people are willing to pay for in a
14 high definition, high resolution format.
16 MR. BERNOFF: All right. Now what happens when
17 we get beyond this niche market? If we go out to about
18 2004, the price differential in sets between analog and
19 digital is going to be relatively small, and you're also
20 going to have the situation where you go into the
21 electronic showroom and the salesperson says you don't
22 really want to buy an analog set, do you? Come on,
23 they're scheduled to turn off all the analog signals in
24 two years. Why don't you just buy a digital set? I'll
25 see you in here next year for digital if you don't buy one
2 And the result is that we'll begin to start
3 seeing a rampup of these purchases in about 2004, and our
4 expectation that the adoptions will reach about 23 percent
5 of households at that point.
6 Now, what happens after these sets get bought?
7 One possible scenario, which I don't personally believe
8 in, is that people take the sets home, they set up their
9 rabbit ears, and they say, wait a minute, this is a clear-
10 screen picture. I have all these choices from the
11 broadcasters multicasting high definition. Why don't I
12 stop paying my cable bill and I can just get everything
13 from broadcast?
14 But at this point the cable industry is not
15 likely to sit still as their subscriber base leaves. The
16 digital transition that's already under way in the cable
17 industry and is proceeding relatively slowly is likely to
18 accelerate and you'll see a lot more digital choices from
19 cable television at this point.
20 The activity that you've seen in a last few
21 weeks around digital cable boxes running Windows CE and
22 the WebTV chip and Personal Java we'll finally begin to
23 see that start rolling out in the households over the next
24 five to ten years, and this is when things will
25 accelerate, when there's a risk of losing those cable
1 subscribers to broadcast.
2 What will those cable people be able to see?
3 Well, given the additional compression that's possible
4 with delivering cable digitally, you'll see dozens of high
5 definition channels and hundreds of standard definition
6 channels on those cable systems.
8 MR. BERNOFF: The next slide is our projections
9 for how fast we think digital television is likely to
10 penetrate. Just to sort of fast-forward to ten years from
11 now, in 2007 we're looking at approximately 42 million
12 households with either a digital television converter for
13 broadcast or an actual digital television set in the
15 If you wonder about the speed of this and wonder
16 whether people might be picking up this capability
17 quicker, I'll just draw your attention to the fact that
18 two of the most popular consumer electronics innovations
19 in the last 20 years -- audio CD and VCRs -- took eight
20 years to go from 1 percent penetration of America to 50
21 percent penetration of American households. And anybody
22 who believes that digital television is going to catch on
23 faster than something as popular as a VCR is, I think,
24 extraordinarily optimistic.
25 This has interesting implications for turning
1 off the analog signal in 2006, as scheduled, because not
2 only do we see more than half of American households
3 without a digital television receiver, but even in the
4 households that do have a receiver there are going to be
5 plenty of leftover old analog sets that they don't wish to
6 become obsolete at that moment.
8 MR. BERNOFF: Now I'm not going to go into
9 detail about the next two slides because of the
10 limitations on time. I'll be happy to answer questions on
11 them. But we went so far as to predict what this means
12 for the distribution pie and what this means for ratings.
13 We expect cable to continue to increase its
14 market share. There's going to be a little bit of a dip
15 when digital comes on line in a big way with cheaper sets
16 around 2002, but we expect that to go up to about 70
17 percent penetration, with direct broadcast satellite going
18 up to eventually to about 15 percent of households.
20 MR. BERNOFF: And as far as ratings, the story
21 here is continued decline in network ratings in the face
22 of more choices from cable.
23 In the aggregate we expect free cable channel
24 ratings to go up. The real losers here and the people who
25 aer going to end up the worst off are the people with
1 independent channels, many of the UHF affiliates, that are
2 right now showing reruns and other more daytime type
3 programming. They are going to see a continual erosion of
4 their market share in favor of these free channels.
5 That's what I've got for you today. I think
6 it's a pretty interesting story, given that we're talking
7 about the broadcast industry investing billions of dollars
8 and ending up in a slightly worse situation than they're
9 in right now.
10 Thank you.
11 MR. GLASER: Thanks a lot, Josh.
12 For the third presentation, we're going to talk
13 about the relationship of the Internet to digital
14 television, which is really more of a survey of what's
15 going on on the Internet with regard to transmission of
16 digital video.
18 MR. GLASER: Indeed, the Internet is today, by
19 probably any measure, probably the most broad-based method
20 of transmission of digital video, if one defines digital
21 video in the very literal sense of video that's digital.
22 The quality, the image size, the frame rate, is well below
23 broadcast standards. Nonetheless, it's a very broad-
24 based phenomenon. It's really been going on for about
25 three years, and, given that the quality is inferior to
1 any broadcast method today, it's really interesting to ask
2 why has the Internet become such a broad-based vehicle for
3 the delivery of video in such a short period of time.
4 There really aer a set of reasons for that. One
5 is that the Internet is a global delivery system, so that
6 any signal can be transmitted, as for instance is the case
7 with the audio of today's hearing, can be received
8 basically simultaneously anywhere in the world.
9 Secondly, anybody can be a programmer. There's
10 no need to go to the FCC or a national sovereign
11 organization to get a broadcast license. There's no
12 limitation of spectrum. It's a switched delivery system,
13 so anybody can transmit to anybody. As a result, there
14 can be, just like there aer hundreds of thousands of Web
15 sites, there could be hundreds of thousands of, if you
16 will, channels.
17 Broadcasts can reach out to the overall Internet
18 or can reach out within organizations over intranets.
19 Programs can be personalized, since the receivers, if you
20 will, are all personal computers that have memory and
21 local storage in computers, were already early on in the
22 process of experimenting with how all these different
23 program services can be mixed and matched, and in fact the
24 programs themselves can either be broadcast live or made
25 available on demand, can be linear broadcast or can be
1 interactive, and can be integrated with the worldwide web.
3 MR. GLASER: To give you a sense of how much
4 activity is out there and how rapidly it's growing, this
5 is a survey that was done just through looking at the
6 various search engines out there for how many Web sites,
7 how many Web pages have in this case audio or video on
9 The green in the diagram represents audio and
10 the light blue represents video. In the period of the end
11 of September to the end of November, which is to say a
12 two-month period, the number of Web pages with video or
13 audio grew by 70 percent.
14 The video piece of that actually grew by about
15 85 percent, and the audio piece grew by 60 percent.
16 Audio, as you see in this chart, still is substantially
17 greater than video because of bandwidth considerations,
18 which I'll talk about in a second.
19 But, nonetheless, the overall amount of video
20 and audio that's out there, as well as the number of
21 people that experience this -- estimates are that there
22 are on the order of 20 million people globally that
23 experience video and audio on the Internet, and that's
24 grown very dramatically, probably doubled in 1997 over
1 So this is a broad-based sort of, if you will,
2 almost bottoms-up, perhaps one might even say ad hoc
3 underground type of phenomenon.
5 MR. GLASER: The driver of this has been
6 primarily people with dial-up access to the Internet.
7 Some people get access to the Internet, of course,
8 directly in corporations or in campuses or government, but
9 the majority of Internet access for experiencing video and
10 audio is through dial-up.
11 This chart shows that from 1995 to 1997, again
12 just the last two years, the number of PC households grew
13 in a healthy fashion probably by about 40 percent. But
14 the number of people with dial-up access to the Internet
15 grew about five-fold during that same period. There is
16 this real explosion of Internet access.
17 It has been almost purely borne on the back of
18 dial-up standard POTS -- plain old telephone service --
19 modems. There is a little bit of ISDN and cable modems,
20 but, as you see in the chart, a very small percentage.
21 Cable modems really sort of made their first way in 1997.
22 We probably exited 1997 with 100,000 households on a
23 domestic basis with cable modems installed, and estimates
24 are that there may be 300,000 to 400,000 or 500,000 in
25 1998, so very rapidly growing. But compared to a base of
1 over 30 million dial-up households still a very, very
2 small number.
4 MR. GLASER: The interaction between the methods
5 of access and the bandwidth and hence video quality is a
6 very important fundamental point. This chart shows the
7 type of alternatives that we have available, and what
8 we're going to do is show a few examples of what people
9 are doing today on the Internet as well as what's possible
11 By way of contrast, DTV, in terms of the overall
12 bandwidth, is nearly 20 megabits or 20,000 kilobits of
13 bandwidth that's available per 6MHz channel. All of the
14 methods of transmitting video on the Internet today use
15 just a fraction of that. In terms of what people do over
16 standard phone lines, just about 1/400th of the amount of
17 bandwidth that the full highest definition DTV signal can
19 So we're talking about here very, very
20 fractional uses of bandwidth relative to full DTV. The
21 experience that one gets with that shows, but it is very
22 interesting that even though the quality of the experience
23 is much lower that all of these other benefits associated
24 with the transmission of video and audio on the Internet
25 are so powerful that there's still a lot of activity going
1 on in this area.
2 Before we look at these various tradeoffs,
3 that's the vast majority at the below 56K POT, standard
4 phone line connection. Also I'm going to want to show
5 what's possible in the 100 to 500K range, where the video
6 quality is less than VHS but getting to a point where it
7 is competitive with that. As a third reference point, I
8 put the MPEG standard, which is sort of the initial video
9 standard, MPEG-1, which gets about 1/10th or 1/15th of the
10 DTV standard. I didn't choose to do any demonstrations
11 there, but just wanted to show you that as another
12 reference point that many people may have.
14 MR. GLASER: Now I'd like to show two examples
15 of what this video looks like that is being put up today,
16 in fact every day, by two major broadcast companies. And
17 I want to thank the folks at ABC and at Fox News for
18 allowing this demonstration. These are literally what you
19 would have seen if yesterday or the day before you had
20 gone to their Web pages.
22 MR. GLASER: This is ABCNews.com, and they put
23 up video on a regular basis associated with very many of
24 their stories. This is their home page. When one clicks
25 on the mouse, this is the article on the deep weather
1 freeze, and this is the video that is up there. Again,
2 this is the video that's designed for 56K modems, which is
3 the fastest popular commonly-available modem speed.
4 And, as you'll see, the video quality here is
5 well below broadcast. We called it talking head video on
6 that last slide. And, as you'll see, it gets the point
7 across but it certainly isn't anywhere near broadcast
9 (A video was played.)
10 MR. GLASER: Okay.
12 MR. GLASER: What I will now show you is a
13 similar clip from Fox News. And that gives you a sense.
14 This is also just a video page that Fox has, and every day
15 on their Web site they're putting up lots and lots of
16 clips like that, and this is an example again for that
17 same bandwidth, that same 56K, what you can expect to see.
18 (A video was played.)
19 MR. GLASER: Now again that was what can be done
20 today, and that's the majority of video on the Internet is
21 at that level.
23 MR. GLASER: I want to show examples of the next
24 level up, because I think it is actually striking to see
25 that if you put 3, 4, or 5 times the amount of bandwidth
1 on the problem, still a very small percentage in this
2 case, something like 1/200th or 1/100th of a full DTV
3 signal, still the video can get, for certain kinds of
4 applications, into the sort of near VHS range.
5 I first want to show an example from C-SPAN.
6 This may be the first time a clip from C-SPAN has been
7 shown on C-SPAN. I didn't know this at the time we were
8 setting up. And then I want to show a movie trailer to
9 show you for a different kind of content.
10 This clip is at about 300K, to give you an
11 example of the range of expectation.
12 (A video was shown.)
13 MR. GLASER: Okay. Now I want to show you a
14 second clip, which is a motion picture trailer. This has
15 a lot more action and I think this clip is at about 400 or
16 500K, but, as you'll see, it's also not quite VHS quality,
17 but it starts to get in that realm, get into that range of
19 (A video was shown.)
20 MR. GLASER: So, by way of summary, and then
21 after this we certainly want to turn everything over to
22 the committee for questions, within the range of what can
23 be done today -- and again none of these formats, just to
24 be clear, are any of the approved DTV formats -- all of
25 this stuff would go under the broad rubric of what DTV
1 calls data transmission, where the only obligation that
2 DTV has is to send this as a data stream and assume that
3 there's a processor on the receiving end -- for instance,
4 a PC or the kind of microprocessor that's found in a WebTV
5 -- that knows how to interpret this data.
6 But the implications are very powerful in that I
7 think you can see a scenario where DTV bandwidth can be
8 used not only for single channel very high definition or
9 even 10-channel SD, as has been discussed, where there
10 will be better than broadcast quality experience, but, as
11 you've seen here, 50, 100, 200, 300, perhaps as many as
12 400 discrete, if you will, channels of video information
13 that has all kinds of very interesting implications in the
14 months and years ahead as microprocessors become
16 And all of this is just running off of a
17 standard Pentium personal computer, to give you an example
18 of sort of how the futures might be coming together.
19 So, with that, let me turn things back over to
20 Norm and Les and anyone else on the committee that has
21 questions for our panel this morning.
22 MR. ORNSTEIN: Thank you all. That was
23 provocative and enlightening in a host of ways.
24 Let me start with just a question or two. First
25 for Mr. Allan, talk a little bit, if you will, about the
1 nature of the compression technology now and where it
2 seems to be heading. You said at the start that we might
3 be talking about five or six or seven or eight channels
4 that could be multiplexed simultaneously.
5 Is that where we're going to be when these first
6 digital signals go out in the top 10 markets, and if we
7 can look ahead at where we may be, how many channels
8 realistically, given what's happening with compression,
9 could actually go out at any given time, looking down the
11 MR. ALLAN: Well, I think a lot of the response
12 to that question is a function of what the broadcaster
13 believes is acceptable video quality. We all have
14 differences of opinion when we see different bit rates.
15 In the system, it's basically totally variable, which says
16 that you can go now to 1.5 megabits a second, obviously in
17 the 19 that gives you 10 channels or more. That's cartoon
18 quality video.
19 Movies right now are done reasonably well at 3
20 megabits a second, sports are at 6 to 8 depending on which
21 system you're dealing with today.
22 So it becomes a quality issue of the broadcaster
23 on what's acceptable to him and how he wants to use the
24 compression that's there based on how he wishes to use the
25 bit rate.
1 One of the things that will happen going
2 forward, as we all get better in designing the algorithms
3 in the encoders that are used for compression, we'll find
4 ways to do better quality pictures at lower bit rates, so
5 there's still going to be headroom within the encoders to
6 provide even more flexibility in the system going forward.
7 Exactly what those bit rates aer at this point
8 in time is really a function of the creativity of the
9 engineers that are working with the design of encoders.
10 MR. ORNSTEIN: And, as I understand it, if
11 you're talking about a live signal, like a sports program,
12 that takes a lot more than if you're talking about even
13 something like a movie, which may have a lot of action in
14 it but which isn't going out live.
15 MR. ALLAN: If you were doing a sports event
16 today in high definition, you're going to use the majority
17 of the 19 megabits per second. If you're willing to do
18 standard definition the way DSS would do it today in a
19 digital format, you can do a basketball game, which is
20 most likely the hardest task because of the action, in
21 somewhere approximating 7 megabits per second.
22 That, when DSS started, was closer to 9, so even
23 in there some of the improvements have freed up bits for
24 other uses and other programming means.
25 MR. ORNSTEIN: And if you wanted to do a couple
1 of movies.
2 MR. ALLAN: If you want to do a couple of
3 movies, high definition with surround sound, you can most
4 likely run them in the vicinity of 10 megabits apiece, and
5 most likely do two movies, high definition, on that
6 channel, with something that is highly acceptable to the
8 Right now that's stretching the system about as
9 far as it can go in that capability. And then you start
10 getting into things that some people might believe is high
11 definition, some other people would say it's not, and it
12 starts to become a subjective attitude.
13 MR. ORNSTEIN: One other question about the
14 screen technology. Certainly if we think about what the
15 futuristic projections have been, it's not just that we'll
16 get reasonably priced large-screen Tvs, but we're going to
17 have these plasma screens that you can hang on a wall.
18 Those are available but extraordinarily expensive now.
19 Is that technology and production cost changing
20 to a point where maybe if we look to when Josh says 8 or
21 10 years down the road we actually have some real
22 penetration here, that consumers are going to be able to
23 buy wall-size screens like pictures they can hang at a
24 relatively small costs?
25 MR. ALLAN: I'm always afraid to forecast when
1 flatscreen will be available, but I've been in the
2 consumer electronics industry for almost 30 years, and
3 every year we say it's 10 years out, and we haven't been
4 right for 30 years.
5 However, there's no question those are coming
6 down. They're digital displays. People are working on
7 them very diligently.
8 What's happened with NTSC, people worked on
9 electronics but the picture tube was pretty much a known
10 display, and there wasn't a whole lot of cost reduction
11 work done. I think that Jim Meyer from Thomson Consumer
12 Electronics at the Consumer Electronics Show commented the
13 other day that there's no question the electronics costs
14 on digital television will drop very quickly.
15 You can already see merchant chip manufacturers
16 introducing .35 micron chip sets, which is the first
17 attempt at major cost reduction of the electronics. But
18 his second part was, people will start paying attention to
19 display technology again and working on cost reduction on
20 display technology, be it tube projection or flatscreen to
21 also cost-reduce that, because they recognize that their
22 business, which sells 25 million television sets a year in
23 the United States today, that that volume and loading
24 those factories is a function of a price/cost
25 relationship, performance relationship with the consumer.
1 So they're going to be addressing those very diligently,
2 because they want the costs down.
3 I think one of the things you should recognize
4 is that consumers today, there are 18 million households
5 that have television sets that cost them over $2,000 at
6 this point in time, and the consumer electronics industry
7 is selling roughly 1 million sets a year at the $3,000
8 price range and above, so there are plenty of people out
9 there that are video adopters and innovators to at least
10 prime the pump to get things started with reasonable
11 volumes so the consumer electronics manufacturers can do
12 what they do very well, which is take a very complex
13 product, make it as simple as possible, and cost reduce
15 And I think the history of television, in '54 a
16 color television set, 13-inch, cost the same as a
17 Chevrolet. Today that same television set's about $129.
18 VCRs started at $1,000. Today you can buy them for $89.
19 That was in '76; now we're in '97.
20 So their track record is, because of the
21 electronics and the type of products, to cost-reduce very
22 diligently because they are in a mass market business and
23 their businesses are all volume-leveraged.
24 MR. ORNSTEIN: Les?
25 MR. MOONVES: Once again let me reiterate thank
1 you, all three of you, for a very good presentation.
2 I want to deal with the money for a little bit.
3 Show me the money. You both spoke about what it's going
4 to cost for the broadcaster to put in the equipment,
5 anywhere from $1.5 million to north of $6 million or
6 whatever it will cost for each broadcaster.
7 By the same token, Josh, by your statistic, in
8 the year 2004 we'll have approximately 23 percent
9 penetration. One of the things this commission has to
10 determine is how much has the broadcaster been given, per
11 se. Now, with penetration being only 23 percent in the
12 year 2004 and the cost of this equipment being
13 considerable, what do you view as the future in terms of
14 the finances for the broadcaster? Either one of you can
15 answer, because I think you may have differing opinions.
16 MR. BERNOFF: Well, the question is how you make
17 use of that resource. One of the things that I am
18 projecting that's most likely to happen with independent
19 broadcasters first as opposed to affiliates of the major
20 networks is to be able to use the bandwidth for other
22 As I understand it, the data, for example, that
23 can be transmitted in this signal doesn't have to be
24 associated with a television program, and it's possible
25 for the broadcasters to take that bandwidth and allocate
1 it to other profit-making activities, from, say, carrying
2 a pay channel like HBO, on a sideband to using it for a
3 paging network.
4 So I think that what you're going to see in the
5 first five years is everybody in the broadcast business
6 experimenting with picture formats, with data broadcasts.
7 During this time, the number of people watching will be
8 low enough that you'll be able to recover from any of
9 these experiments if they don't work out. It's definitely
10 not going to be a time where large amounts of profit are
11 going to be derived from this.
12 In the long term, the broadcaster's ability to
13 leverage not only people receiving the signals over the
14 air but also, assuming that must-carry continues to take
15 place, the receipt through cable is where the money is.
16 It's in advertising and the ability to sell advertising on
17 five different channels during the day, to rent out space
18 to additional channels, to carry data, and to have
19 potentially those channels all carried on cable and
20 satellite is where the money is.
21 But I think certainly this is a case of
22 investment in the short term paying off over the period
23 from five to ten years from now, when the audience finally
24 starts to show up for this.
25 MR. GLASER: I think, linking together a few
1 things that Josh said and that came out in Bruce's
2 presentation, Bruce's presentation illustrated that 47
3 percent of the broadcasters in the most recent survey said
4 that they planned to deliver information services using
5 this additional bandwidth. It was very high in the
7 A very interesting question that Bruce also
8 raised, which Josh just touched on, relates to must-carry.
9 If must-carry includes data services, then I believe there
10 is a tremendous economic opportunity for broadcasters in
11 what one might call the data information services,
12 Internet access space.
13 Internet dialtone, with consumer spending an
14 average of $20 a month for 56 kilobits of access,
15 represents a tremendous opportunity in various forms,
16 where that is a market that has on the order of 20 percent
17 consumer penetration today and probably, as per Josh's
18 point, very high correlation with the early adopters of
19 DTV technology.
20 So if broadcasters are given must-carry standing
21 for the data feeds that they're sending as well, or if,
22 failing that, they are able to get direct digital antennas
23 into people's homes, which is an alternate scenario, then
24 I believe that there's a tremendous short to mid-term
25 economic opportunity.
1 Clearly there's an upfront capital cost
2 associated with any of these deployments that's onerous,
3 and so from a pure capital outlay standpoint the earlier
4 years of DTV will be a very substantial investment period,
5 but I would view that the mid-term opportunity for those
6 kinds of ancillary services, whether and intended public
7 policy consequence or not, is a very, very promising
8 scenario that sits under the hood here as one of the
9 reasons why I thought it was valuable to demonstrate the
10 various ways that the bandwidth can be used for non-
11 traditional -- if DTV's old enough to have traditions --
12 ways of looking at DTV.
13 MR. BERNOFF: I just want to point out one other
14 thing. The real question here is what's the value of
15 what's been given to the broadcasters, and one way of
16 thinking about this is imagine over the next three years
17 you have either a multichannel operator, somebody who owns
18 20, 30, 50 stations, or a second-tier network like UPN or
19 the WB having to make major investments in all of these
21 It wouldn't surprise me if someone who has a
22 vested interest in delivering data, somebody like AOL or
23 Microsoft, sees these television stations, collections of
24 television stations, as a distribution method for their
25 data, and to see a proposed acquisition or a major
1 distribution deal of that kind. Especially when there's
2 this bandwidth that is available, it is likely.
3 The question is what happens ten years out if
4 everyone's got digital receivers and there's a lot of high
5 definition broadcasting going on and there is suddenly not
6 a whole lot of room left to squeeze the data into the
8 MR. MOONVES: In effect what you're suggesting
9 is that the definition of a broadcaster, particularly in
10 terms of ownership, which has already been changing, is
11 likely to change pretty substantially. I mean, we're
12 likely to have a complete confusion where at least now
13 there's some distinction between the Microsofts of the
14 world and the broadcasters of the world.
15 MR. GLASER: The word we used was "convergence,"
16 not "confusion."
17 MR. BERNOFF: Right now broadcasters like the
18 PBS stations are selling their vertical blanking interval
19 space for use in data delivery, and nobody sees that as
20 particularly scary. Of course, the reason is it is public
21 television stations, they need the money, and the fact
22 that Starsight electronic program guides are being
23 delivered there doesn't really scare anybody.
24 But there's a big difference between the 9600
25 baud that you can get in a vertical blanking interval and
1 suddenly 19 megabits per second worth of bandwidth
2 available in a digital television channel.
3 MR. ORNSTEIN: Let me ask you a different
4 question, Josh, and then we'll open it up. It's partly
5 related to what Les has said, but also because we are
6 considering the question of political communication as
7 well, and political communication by candidates and
8 parties at least has a lot of parallel with commercial
9 communication and advertising.
10 I guess what I want to ask you to explore a
11 little bit is, if we look down the road and think about
12 all the options that will be available to consumers and
13 how consumers will be looking at their television sets,
14 it's got to change dramatically the nature of advertising
15 -- the way in which advertisers communicate. The
16 technology has got to be changing in a way where you can
17 simply program out the commercial spaces, if you want.
18 It's certainly going to be a whole lot easier.
19 As you've done your surveys and project ahead,
20 do you see advertisers, first of all, either through the
21 agencies or the advertisers themselves, thinking a lot
22 about and projecting ahead themselves as to how they will
23 respond to this digital high definition era, including all
24 of the data streams coming through, and do you see the
25 communication changing in a fundamental way?
1 If we move from one minute to 30 second to 15
2 second, toward 8-second spots, are we going to continue
3 that trend or move in some different fashion?
4 MR. BERNOFF: I actually talked to a fair number
5 of television advertisers, both during and after this
6 study was created. They are fascinated by this, as they
7 are by any new medium.
8 So let me point out two implications. One has
9 to do with reach. What we're talking about here is a
10 fragmenting of media. You're talking about many more
11 channels, many more choices, and, with things like video
12 on the Internet, the possibility for a limitless number of
14 And in a world like that there is some value in
15 having the only shows that a significant percentage of the
16 world watches. And that's why when I go to network
17 executives and show them that three or four percent
18 decline in market share they say, oh, that doesn't look
19 too bad, because they're still going to be the only people
20 who are in possession of the Super Bowl and Seinfeld and
21 other high-reach activities.
22 The second thing which I think is interesting
23 has to do with targeting, because right now you can make a
24 highly-targeted buy on something like the Discovery
25 Channel or Home and Garden Television and expect to reach
1 a very specific set of people. Not only will you be able
2 to target further, but you'll be able to let people act on
4 Right now, using a WebTV-Plus, you can in
5 certain programs, say, be watching a music video, push a
6 button and actually purchase the video that you're
7 watching on screen, get the CD delivered to your house.
8 And I think that advertisers are going to be especially
9 interested in, you know, show them the spot. You know,
10 show me the commercial for the automobile, and if you're
11 interested push the button on your remote and we'll send
12 you a brochure or we'll send you into the Web site for the
13 dealer in your area to find more information.
14 So the commercial doesn't become so much about
15 here's a product we want you to know about. Here's an
16 image we want you to have. All right, we're done. But if
17 you want to invest more, you will be able to go deeper
18 into that commercial and interact with it.
19 For things like home shopping we could end up
20 with an experience that's more like Nieman-Marcus than it
21 is like Walmart when you have this kind of interactivity
23 MR. ALLAN: Just to add to Josh's comments,
24 right now what we're seeing is that the advertisers are
25 very much in the same boat as the broadcasters. They have
1 a new capability and they're trying to figure out how can
2 they really utilize it.
3 We've just recently been approached by one of
4 the largest advertisers in the United States, Proctor and
5 Gamble, asking us to loan them equipment for the next 90
6 days so in their headquarters they can experiment with
7 high definition, they can experiment with multicasting,
8 they can have their advertising people working with it to
9 try and understand how they think they can use it to
10 improve their overall advertising message and obviously
11 hit a directed audience.
12 So I think there's going to be a lot there, and
13 I don't think anybody can get a clear answer today other
14 than that it's a new tool and a lot of people are going to
15 be experimenting just to see how it works for their
16 business and how it can improve their overall business
18 MR. ORNSTEIN: It's not a subject for us, but
19 retailing is going to go through a revolution like they
20 have never seen before, clearly.
21 Rob, let me ask you just one question. You
22 talked about video on the Internet. Talk a little bit
23 about the Internet on video, because I would assume that
24 we're also moving into an era where people as they watch
25 their television sets are going to be able to
1 instantaneously call up any Web site or Web page, and that
2 the Web pages are going to change to accommodate the video
3 viewers, not just the computer viewers. Is that an
4 accurate assumption?
5 MR. GLASER: Yeah. I think there are two issues
6 here. There's what's technically possible and what will
7 consumers want to do.
8 From a technical standpoint, if one were a
9 purist, the most rational thing to do would be to have a
10 general purpose microprocessor in every DTV device so you
11 could just do whatever you wanted with the data, and
12 somebody could download a new job application, if somebody
13 had a new idea for a way to tell a story interactively or
14 a way to have a quiz after a children's program, or a
15 whole set of scenarios that are very interesting.
16 The challenge and the issue is that the scenario
17 for how people watch television and the scenario for how
18 people use computers are totally different. Typically
19 when someone's using a computer it's a one-on-one
20 experience, the screen is 12 to 18 inches away, there's a
21 keyboard. It's a high level of interactivity engagement.
22 When people use televisions, there may be
23 multiple people. The viewing distance for standard NTSC
24 is six to ten feet away, and for HD with big screens you
25 want to actually even be further away to have the best
1 possible experience. The level of interactivity is
2 usually just a channel-up or channel-down button.
3 So there aer such different paradigms of usage
4 that one of the things that we've see is that there is
5 sort of a no-man's-land in the middle and we're all
6 struggling with is there a program guide that's easier to
7 use than up and down where you don't have to have a
8 keyboard in order to use it. And then when you get to the
9 level of how the TV programs work with ancillary data and
10 ancillary information how that works.
11 So I think there is no doubt that that 19.3
12 megabits of bandwidth that broadcasters have can be used
13 as a very, very powerful asset for data broadcasting,
14 including pure Internet access, as it is today on a
15 computer, where people might plug their DTV feed into
16 their computer, much as people are plugging cable modems
17 into computers.
18 But the question of what the hybrid applications
19 are, where you're actually using your TV for Internet
20 access, where it's sending e-mail, where it's the
21 interactive conferencing and chatting, going to lots of
22 Web sites, that's more of a social issues and a usage
23 pattern issue than it is a technological issue. And on
24 that one nobody yet has found the hybrid that works.
25 Things like WebTV certainly are very interesting
1 experiments, and they have a couple hundred thousand
2 users. And I'm actually optimistic that we're going to
3 get to an interesting hybrid there. But there's not a
4 paradigm that you can point to that's as pure as either
5 today's Internet or today's TV experience.
6 MR. BERNOFF: I'd like to take the chance to
7 answer that very directly. I spent a lot of time talking
8 to people in the television production business about
9 adding interactivity. And they're very confused right now
10 about what they need to do.
11 Let me just cite three problems. Number one, if
12 you want to add interactivity to a television signal right
13 now, you have Intercast that runs on PCs, Wink that runs
14 on cable boxes, WebTV, NetChannel, and Worldgate, which is
15 Internet access that runs on cable boxes. And they all
16 have different standards for linking television signals to
17 interactive information. So the person producing is like,
18 well, which standard do I support.
19 The other problem is there's nobody there
20 watching, so you put in all this effort and there's no
21 result right now.
22 And the third problem is that adding
23 interactivity to television programs is expensive. It's
24 expensive to figure out. I mean, producing television
25 programs is expensive, but we already know how that
1 results in a payoff in terms of audiences watching. But
2 the production cost of doing this right now doesn't
3 justify anything other than experiments.
4 Now digital television has the potential to
5 resolve all three of these problems. There will be more
6 people watching. There is the likelihood to be one
7 standard for adding interactivity to television signals,
8 and if you think three or four years out, maybe people
9 will have finally figured out the appropriate economic
10 model to do that.
11 But nobody's figured out right now what the
12 appropriate thing is to do, and they're all scratching
13 their heads and asking me what they ought to do over the
14 next couple years.
15 MR. DUHAMEL: Bruce, the question that I had is
16 do you expect the economies that you've seen on the
17 consumer electronics, as the prices of the receivers come
18 down, to be translated into economies on the broadcast
19 equipment over the next four to five years?
20 MR. ALLAN: Well, there's no question that as
21 you move into the production mode you get some economies
22 in the broadcast business. What you have to recognize is
23 we're dealing with a universe of 1,684 customers, not 100
24 million. So you'll never see the kind of economies in
25 broadcast equipment that you see in consumer equipment.
1 There's no question, though, that the
2 electronics in an encoder, as new chip sets are developed
3 and as things happen, there will be economies that will
4 come along.
5 That number has dropped. When the initial
6 estimate was done four years ago at $10 million to $12
7 million a station, it was based on the known technology
8 and the known capabilities and estimates at that point in
9 time. It's down significantly from that now because it's
10 in production mode, and it most likely will go somewhat
11 lower. But you're starting to get in the realm of a 20 to
12 30 percent premium over analog equipment, so there isn't a
13 whole lot more room to take cost out of that going
15 MR. DUHAMEL: You mentioned you were figuring an
16 average of $5.7 million.
17 MR. ALLAN: That's what a broadcaster told us.
18 That's not my number.
19 MR. DUHAMEL: Because I've seen broadcasters
20 that are spending close to $20 million for a single
22 MR. ALLAN: It depends what they're doing at a
23 station, how they're equipping it. What we got in the
24 $5.7 million was the feedback from broadcasters on what
25 they intended to do on average, and it was a structured
1 sample that had large broadcasters, medium broadcasters,
2 and small, so it was indicative of the population of the
3 United States and not an individual broadcaster.
4 MR. DUHAMEL: Because the numbers I've seen,
5 this wasn't a top 10 station, but that they had placed an
6 order and I think the total order was about $20 million.
7 MR. ALLAN: The biggest issue depends on how
8 they're equipping their station for local origination.
9 And that's where the big variable comes into it, depending
10 on how they see doing that -- number of cameras, number of
11 encoders, redundancy. There are a lot of things,
12 depending on how a station wishes to operate and run his
13 station that determine how big that bill really is.
14 I mean, a lot of people will run redundant
15 transmitters simply to make sure that if one goes down and
16 they can't afford to go off the air they've got full power
17 and they're still broadcasting. A lot of people will do
18 redundant encoders, and the question is when do they get
19 to the redundant encoders to make sure they don't have
20 some of the experiences we've had when we've done
21 demonstrations with one and we try and make it work for
22 four hours.
23 So there's just a lot of variables there. And
24 what broadcasters have told us from a budgeting standpoint
25 is that 25 percent of them expect to have their budget for
1 funding to be up and actually operating and the basic
2 funding approved from a budget standpoint by 1998, and 50
3 percent have said they expect to have approved funding by
5 So the funding and the budget and the growth,
6 and the fact that all of this investment does not have to
7 happen in one year, it gets spread over time, you have to
8 be very careful in the way you look at the numbers. And
9 it will vary by station.
10 MS. SOHN: Bruce, I want to get back to the
11 question of what is HDTV because I think that's really
12 important when you're talking about how much capacity a
13 broadcaster's going to be using at any particular time.
14 At the Consumer Electronics Show my
15 understanding is that the Consumers Electronics
16 Manufacturers Association approved two types of HDTV.
17 That's 1080I and 720P. Would you tell me the difference
18 in terms of how much capacity they use? And then I've got
19 a follow-up question.
20 MR. ALLAN: Basically 720P and 1080I have
21 roughly the same requirement for data. They are different
22 approaches both to get high definition. In my belief, the
23 reason CEMA chose it is high definition is when we
24 originally did the standard, and we're talking only high
25 definition. Those were the two formats that were selected
1 for high definition.
2 But, as I say, the bit rate is roughly the same.
3 The question then becomes how do you handle those formats
4 and what bit rate do you want to run with that determines
5 the actual utilization of the capacity. But they utilize
6 almost the same amount of data to get a comparable
8 MS. SOHN: Now you had on one of your charts
9 here that the broadcasters say that during prime time 99
10 percent of them during prime time are going to do HD. But
11 is it going to be the type of HD that uses the 7 or 8
12 megabits, like a movie, or do you think it'll be more of
13 the kind that will use most of the bit stream, so 18 or
15 MR. ALLAN: Well, I think initially a lot of it
16 is going to be in the 18 range so people can put out the
17 best possible picture, create the most dramatic effect at
18 retail and expose it to the consumer. I think as the
19 broadcaster has experience and time in utilizing the
20 system and he starts and his engineering and production
21 people understand the tradeoffs that they'll work that to
22 get maximum capacity and maximum utilization out of that
24 We've seen it in other digital systems, and I
25 don't believe it would be any different with broadcasters.
1 But it's a case of understanding the applications,
2 understanding what the quality levels are, and you can see
3 in DSS today one of the broadcasters will run movies at 3
4 megabits a second, and he determines that's acceptable.
5 The other runs at 3.5 megabits and for pay per view he
6 goes to 4.5 megabits to make the picture look better.
7 And I think that the broadcasters will determine
8 where the mean is and how they can get maximum utilization
9 out of that channel for not only that but so they have
10 data capacity and other services that they can use on an
11 opportunistic basis.
12 MR. GLASER: My sense is, and this is sort of a
13 view of how technology interacts with markets, that it's
14 clear that there will be times of day and types of
15 programs where it will only be economically rational to
16 have multichannel presentations because the extra
17 bandwidth won't get you bigger audiences in terms of
18 larger pictures. And the tricky question is how you build
19 viewer habituation, how you built usage patterns when some
20 days you may be broadcasting, if you will, two channels,
21 sometimes you might be broadcasting five channels.
22 So are channels 3, 4, and 5 channels that can
23 really build loyal audiences if they're not 27 by 7
24 channels? It's a tricky question.
25 If these devices in a common scenario get hooked
1 up for interactive services, either into PCs or this
2 hybrid PC/TV thing develops, then you have a third way to
3 make money, which is through those businesses. So I think
4 the wild card in my opinion is there are a whole set of
5 factors. Does must-carry include all data? Do standards
6 coalesce around interactive services, be it essentially
7 treating DTV as an equivalent of a cable modem for PC
8 access or doing something on a hybrid TV attach device?
9 If that happens, then there's a big economic
10 opportunity. My perception is there is no coalescence
11 there. There's a lot of sniffing around. But it's a
12 tremendous opportunity, and so my sense is that there will
13 be people that experiment and find successful hybrids
14 there, because in the short to middle term there is a
15 substantial economic opportunity.
16 MR. BENTON: I found, Bruce, three of your
17 charts especially interesting and it kind of confirmed my
18 guess. The chart on what time of day will you broadcast
19 HDTV and what time of day will you broadcast standard
20 definition. HDTV clearly, prime time is the target.
21 That's makes most sense because you're spending more to
22 reach the largest audience.
23 Now, going to the multiple channel, this chart
24 of yours, if multiple channel, what will you have on those
25 channels, that to me was, from a programming point of
1 view, the single most interesting chart of all the
2 presentations. I wish you'd talk more about this chart,
3 of what will you have on these channels, because I notice
4 instructional/education is 20 percent. I think if there
5 are five channels that you could have a full-time channel
6 just for instructional/education, which I'm sure we'll be
7 talking about this afternoon.
8 Local news and public events, 26 percent. You
9 could have a full-time channel, multiplying by six. So
10 I'd like to have your thoughts to go into a little more
11 depth with us about the meaning of this chart of if
12 multiple channel, what will you have on those channels?
13 MR. ALLAN: I think a lot of what's happening
14 there, when you look at it, and we've said it on other
15 things, broadcasters have a new delivery system, they have
16 a new tool, they have new capabilities. They're all
17 working their business models right now to understand how
18 those work for them, what the business might mean, what
19 rules of the business change, so they can understand what
20 economically makes sense for them.
21 There's no question that PBS and others have
22 said they want to multicast during the day because they
23 want to take advantage of the educational capabilities and
24 do things that they would like to do to reach broader
25 audiences on an educational and public service basis and
1 expand their programming to schools, hospitals, and a lot
2 of places that they can't reach with one channel today.
3 I think the interesting thing here is that the
4 broadcasters started looking at news, public information,
5 and public services more so than they did pay per view and
6 other things that could equally be used for the channel.
7 Now the survey doesn't go into that in enough
8 depth to let us interpret that totally, but I found this
9 as an interesting finding also, because it may have been a
10 little bit different than I would have guessed it would
11 have been. But again I think the key is that all of these
12 people are trying to understand what is the business model
13 for a broadcaster now that he has these new capabilities.
14 What does it mean from an advertising standpoint? How
15 should he program it to maximize his audience share?
16 And they're working these diligently, and I know
17 that most of the people we've talked to don't believe they
18 have all the answers, and part of the answers are going to
19 be developed in the marketplace, as some of the other
20 panel members have said, as they experiment with the new
21 services and find out what the consuming public tells them
22 they really want.
23 MS. CHARREN: In the interviews that were
24 conducted on that very same question, do you feel that any
25 of that is the broadcaster making it sound good in the
1 beginning, the same way they had Kulka, Fran and Ollie, as
2 that delicious program on television began, and then as
3 the money capabilities showed up certain kinds of
4 programming disappeared in favor of making money, which is
5 understandable but changes the way these answers might
6 feel in the future.
7 MR. ALLAN: Well, it's impossible to give you a
8 total answer to that, but if I look at the study in
9 context, if I were trying to respond to a study to slant
10 the answers to say it's difficult, it's a problem, I don't
11 know how to handle the programming, some of the answers
12 that came out -- we're going to spend the money, we're
13 going to do it now -- would have been different.
14 So I think what you're seeing is people are
15 groping with what they're really going to do with this.
16 We're getting a fairly honest response on what they're
18 That's not saying it doesn't change tomorrow
19 when they've had another 24 hours to think it through and
20 somebody gets a bright idea on how it may work for them,
21 but I think it's an accurate indication of where they are
23 MR. BERNOFF: I actually think there's a
24 relatively simple way to look at this, which is the
25 network affiliates will pass through what the network
1 produces in prime time. And to the extent that networks
2 have announced that they're going to do high definition I
3 think that they will all be forced to go to that level to
4 be competitive.
5 It's not going to be up to the local network
6 affiliates to say yes or no. They're like to be required
7 by their affiliate agreements to pass that through at that
8 high level of definition.
9 And as far as what happens during the day when
10 there's additional channel space available, forgive my
11 cynicism, but it's my perspective that broadcasters will
12 do those things that are likely to generate the most
13 income while maintaining their public interest
15 MR. ALLAN: I think one of the things that we
16 don't show in the charts but it's something that is
17 changing, or at least we believe is changing, is initially
18 the model that people had talked about was that the
19 networks would encode programming, ship compressed
20 programming to the affiliates, and the affiliates then
21 would pass that programming through and that would be the
22 way they would start high definition.
23 In our discussions with broadcasters, we're
24 seeing that model changing. We're hearing networks
25 telling us they're going to broadcast high definition via
1 satellite, uncompressed, and there will be encoders
2 available at the local broadcaster to do ad insertion, to
3 do various things. He will then encode it and broadcast
4 that signal.
5 With this study result, what that does, it gives
6 the local broadcaster local origination capability that
7 the original model he wouldn't have had until sometime
8 farther down the road.
9 So I think some of this you're seeing a little
10 of the local affiliate response, obviously, in the numbers
11 we're talking about. You're seeing a difference and
12 change in the last six months on what the model for
13 broadcasting may be as far as the distribution of
15 So the local content and the ability to have
16 local content may be larger up front than a lot of us
17 anticipated initially.
18 MR. CRUMP: I'd like to remind us all that when
19 we talk about what the possibilities are we are talking
20 about just that -- possibilities. And when we think of
21 how we're trying to take an expenditure of money which is
22 from purchase of equipment and change that into a revenue
23 stream we have to remember that everything that's going to
24 occur, everything that we have heard talked about here
25 today, is experimentation.
1 And experimentation in programming is the most
2 expensive booger you can get your hands on, because you
3 don't know what's going to work and not work. You're
4 going to have huge expenditures of money possibly in the
5 larger markets on things that do not generate any audience
6 at all, though it was the best idea that they had at that
8 And to back this up I would point out,
9 particularly -- Les, knows this, sitting here -- we have a
10 number of networks now who literally spend hundreds of
11 millions of dollars every year on brand-new programming
12 that's going to be gangbusters and work every single time,
13 and that money goes right down the drain most of the time.
14 It's very seldom we have the huge hit. So I
15 think we need to --
16 MR. ORNSTEIN: My cab driver, Tony Danza, was
17 saying that to me.
19 MR. CRUMP: So we need to keep in the back of
20 our minds where we're talking about this huge revenue
21 potential it may be there, but the money that's got to go
22 into finding out what works and what does not work is gong
23 to be gigantic as well, and that's the risk that the
24 commercial broadcaster has been willing to assume because
25 it's a gamble but it's been a good gamble.
1 But we don't know that this is going to work.
2 MS. CHARREN: Harold, is there some reason why
3 you kept looking at me during that?
5 MR. CRUMP: Peggy, I look at you because you're
7 MR. BLYTHE: Josh, I am pleased that you
8 mentioned the phrase public interest obligations for the
9 first time this morning.
10 In your surveys or even in Bruce's surveys, was
11 that subject any part of the questioning of what
12 broadcasters feel? Did any broadcasters bring up the
13 phase that some of the services that they provide do fit
14 into that area of public interest obligations, and were
15 they cognizant of the fact that this is one of the issues
16 at hand right now, particularly for this panel, in trying
17 to determine what those obligations may be or continue to
18 be, or what new ones might be part of our final report?
19 Did you run across any of those examples, or do
20 you have suggestions of where broadcasters would use some
21 of these channels to meet some of those public interest
23 MR. BERNOFF: Well, I didn't ask specifically
24 about that, but at the risk of caricaturing people and
25 generalizing, the local stations seemed most worried about
1 meeting the obligation to deliver digital television.
2 That public interest obligation is secondary; they've just
3 got to make sure that a signal is going out and that they
4 can get that functional.
5 And the broadcast networks and the television
6 production companies that I spoke to were most interested
7 in figuring out what were they going to do now that they
8 had this set up.
9 To take it a little bit away from the mercenary,
10 the question is, you know, we've given you this capability
11 to deliver the most compelling possible television. How
12 will you use that, especially given that at the same time
13 you have to satisfy the starting out 100 percent and
14 eventually 95 percent, 85 percent, and 75 percent of your
15 viewers that are still viewing analog.
16 If you ask about my suggestions for public
17 interest, it's sort of interesting, because I worry more
18 about what's likely to be than what should be usually, in
19 this business, but in thinking about this I think that if
20 you imagine a high definition, extremely realistic
21 television picture which has the capability for you to
22 interact with it, there's an enormous capability to create
23 a very compelling medium here, and there's an enormous
24 capability for exploitation.
25 And if I were worried about public interest
1 obligations, one of the things that would be at the top of
2 my mind is to say how can we make sure that children in
3 this situation don't become television junkies, that
4 children in this situation are not sort of sucked into
5 this more realistic picture and this interactivity and
6 into this virtual world in ways that we may not consider
7 to be healthful or hopeful.
8 As far as using bandwidth for things like
9 politics or public interest, that seems secondary in my
10 mind to the potential that this medium has to change the
11 way that Americans live their lives and view their
12 television sets.
13 MR. LaCAMERA: Josh, earlier you mentioned the
14 issue of fragmentation, and I just want to go back to
16 I'm cynical enough to think that, as exciting as
17 all this is -- and I think high definition is going to
18 redefine our business and hopefully reengage the viewer
19 and reexcite the viewer -- I don't think it's going to be
20 the commercial goldmine that many people suggest.
21 If you look at alternative or multicast signals,
22 the first one that comes to mind would be a local or
23 regional news service. We already have several examples
24 of those around the country, as you know, basically
25 partnerships between cable and, in some cases, local
2 Of those, there might be one or two now that
3 after several years have turned profitable and, if so,
4 minimally or marginally.
5 So in your talking to broadcasters was there any
6 expression or just gut reaction and concern about the
7 further cannibalization of their primary signal, their
8 primary service, which in some ways in the end, rather
9 than furthering the interests of public service
10 initiatives, could actually undermine them?
11 MR. BERNOFF: Well, the answer depends on who
12 you talk to. If you're talking about affiliates of major
13 networks, then it's not so much an issue, because of the
14 fact that although there's continuing erosion of market
15 share they think that there's still only going to be one
16 place on television where everyone on Thursday night will
17 be watching the same thing, or one of two or three things.
18 For the independent affiliates, you know, it
19 costs the same amount to put up a new transmitter whether
20 you are an independent affiliate in Augusta, Maine or you
21 are a network affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia. But they
22 recognize that after they begin broadcasting digitally the
23 quality of their programming is not going to suddenly
24 generate a new audience.
25 And that's really where the concern is. It's
1 interesting. If you look at the fragmentation, it's
2 possible to imagine a world in which there's all of this
3 wonderful programming, but if you look at the
4 fragmentation that's happened so far with things like
5 cable, a lot of what's available is reruns of prime time
6 fare, whether you're talking about USA Network or you're
7 talking about your local independent affiliate.
8 And maybe we'll have the ability to see Three's
9 Company at seven different times during the day, but I'm
10 not sure that there's the capability to produce all of
11 this original programming, given that the audience for the
12 lepidoptery channel is not likely to be all that large.
13 MR. LaCAMERA: I think that's the point. You
14 know, if you look at the three traditional historic
15 networks, it's proved repeatedly how we're suggesting that
16 you can't successfully program 22 hours of prime time a
17 week, extend that beyond entertainment to any form of
18 programming and expect broadcasters to successfully and
19 commercially broadcast channels, I think is the issue at
20 hand and one that we shouldn't assume is going to be done
21 successfully or with any commercial return.
22 MR. BERNOFF: Well, it's not popular, but I
23 definitely take away from what I've seen the message that
24 this is not some gold mine. It's not as if you suddenly
25 put these digital stations and bandwidth up and the money
1 starts flowing in.
2 MR. MOONVES: I'd like to comment to Peggy. The
3 role of the broadcaster and the public service are not
4 necessarily mutually exclusive, and I'll explain why.
5 If you're dealing with a universe of five or six
6 new channels, by necessity you will have to do some local
7 programming. Even though in your cynical attitude you may
8 say the broadcaster may want to make as much money as he
9 can on all five or six channels that he may have, I think
10 it will be necessary to do local programming that serves
11 the community that is relatively cheap.
12 So I think the two ends can be the same.
13 MS. CHARREN: I certainly appreciate the
14 education, Les, but let me point out to you that if I were
15 a cynic I would have stopped what I'm doing about 25 years
18 MR. ORNSTEIN: Robert?
19 MR. DECHERD: Norm, thank you. I'd like to
20 reiterate a number of points that had been made in our
21 previous panels and it builds on the theme of each of the
22 last three or four comments. Some of this is observation
23 but I hope it will also engender some responses or
24 extension from our panelists.
25 One thing that was said a minute ago I think is
1 worth noting, and that is that interactivity and a virtual
2 world are indeed coming. They are coming rapidly. They
3 may be pervasive. But those are things that are, for the
4 most part, being driven by third parties to the
5 traditional broadcast industry.
6 Those are coming from people who are not
7 represented at this table per se, other than Rob, and who
8 have no public interest obligations. I think it's
9 important for us to distinguish between our work, our
10 charge, and the real capabilities and influence of
11 traditional broadcasters, who really are the object of our
12 discourse more than anything else.
13 In that sense, I believe that we can choose the
14 non-cynical view here, if we want to, and that is that the
15 broadcasters on this panel are not necessarily exceptions
16 to the rule, which is the theme we've heard in our recent
17 meetings, and that there is indeed a natural gravitation
18 by responsible broadcasters to public interest, to news,
19 to local news and information, and that on our current
20 channels or on multicasted versions of the new spectrum
21 we're going to be loaned -- and I want to underscore
22 "loaned" -- that we may well decide on our own to do
23 things, to take initiatives in public affairs, public
24 interest areas which don't need to be mandated, that are
25 the extension of our current relationship with viewers.
1 Our relationship with viewers is built on a
2 number of things. It's built on our entertainment
3 programming -- whether we're network or non-network. It's
4 built on our local news, our local identity. It's built
5 on the kinds of public interest and public affairs
6 relationships we've established over long periods of time.
7 And if we want to continue to be successful we
8 have to extend those into whatever delivery system
9 evolves. So first let's take the optimistic view that we
10 aren't the only four good guys in the industry and that
11 there may be others who do this as a matter of course.
12 Now, how do we look at this? We look at it as a
13 challenge. We look it, in Josh's research terms, as a
14 prospect wherein eight years from now, having spent, I
15 think you said, billions of dollars as an industry, we
16 will be in the same or somewhat worse competitive position
17 than we are today.
18 So as we as a panel talk about what our public
19 interest obligations are and the cost of maintaining
20 those, much less expanding those, I think we need to
21 recognize, as Norm said earlier, that there are going to
22 be a lot of changes in the ownership landscape, a lot of
23 changes in who the participants are, the people who
24 influence these outcomes.
25 It's not just the traditional commercial over-
1 the-air broadcasters. And indeed, when we get into issues
2 like must-carry, there are some fundamental questions here
3 as to whether these channels which will be available to us
4 through multicasting will have any chance whatsoever of
5 having direct access to the audiences.
6 If the cable industry were represented on this
7 panel, I assure you we would have a very vigorous
8 conversation about whether they must carry only our
9 current over-the-air single channel or one or all of these
10 additional channels.
11 Also keep in mind that these are loaned pieces
12 of spectrum, 6MHz that we have to use until 2006. At our
13 more recent meetings we've heard a lot of skepticism about
14 whether "those megahertz will ever be returned to the
15 Federal government."
16 What we've heard this morning is that this
17 transition is happening at a faster pace than anyone has
18 anticipated. Logic suggests that we then get to an end
19 point where that loan can be repaid. And the fact is, all
20 of these 6MHz returned to the U.S. government can be
21 auctioned off for all the purposes we're talking about
22 here to whatever the marketplace then defines as the
23 universe of bidders.
24 It may be commercial broadcasters. It may be
25 Internet providers. It probably will be parties we can't
1 even identify today because technology is moving that
3 So where I come out is flexibility, as we talked
4 at our last meeting, is really the byword. It's the
5 byword within our business. It's the byword within the
6 public interest obligation. And I think it is very
7 treacherous to make assumptions about who's going to do
8 what, when, how profitably. In fact, I would submit that
9 most of this multicasting will be a loss leader for the
10 next ten years.
11 And keep in mind that under the Telecom Act if a
12 commercial broadcaster takes any of the spectrum and
13 obtains any sort of payment for it, that broadcaster has
14 to pay a fee to the U.S. Government.
15 So this is not the great giveaway, and it is, in
16 my judgment, a transition to where the delivery systems to
17 the home, to the television set for the typical American
18 television viewer is moving from an over-the-air format,
19 where we began in 1945, for which the license is issued -
20 - that's the only license issue here, the only regulatory
21 issue -- to one where, as Josh's research suggests, 75
22 percent of Americans will access our signal via cable,
23 another 10 or so percent by satellite, and the only people
24 still using an antenna to get an over-the-air signal, in
25 my judgment, will be those consumers least able to afford
1 all these pyrotechnics or those who just don't care -- and
2 the truth is there aren't many -- and the political issue
3 is going to be how do you make sure they can down-convert
4 the signal.
5 But in real terms the business is going to be
6 delivered some way other than over the air via the license
7 we obtain from the U.S. Government.
8 So this is a very complex equation, and I think
9 it's important not to get too enthusiastic about Star Wars
10 here when we're still trying to fly fighter jets off of an
11 aircraft carrier deck.
12 MR. ORNSTEIN: We're just trying to make sure
13 that the Force prevails over the Dark Side.
14 MR. DECHERD: Hear, hear.
15 MR. GLASER: Bob, I think you made some very
16 important points in, as always, an extremely articulate
18 The points that I would make -- and I'm sure
19 Josh and Bruce have additional points they would like to
20 add -- is one of the reasons that I in today's session and
21 also in previous sessions introduce the Internet and cable
22 is based on a view that there is a history of why
23 broadcasters are subject to public interest obligations
24 that has gotten us into a somewhat anomalous state.
25 I think there were historically two reasons why,
1 as I've read the literature, there were a category of
2 public interest obligations or sets of public interest
3 obligations for broadcasters.
4 One was spectrum scarcity. The other was the
5 belief that these media are powerful social forces,
6 fundamentally. And I think that one of the things that as
7 a group we are not narrowly chartered to do but I imagine
8 we will want to engage in discussion, whether it's part of
9 our broad charter, is to say that in a world that has as
10 much confusion or convergence, if you will, that a
11 thoughtful, consistent public policy recognizes that
12 duality of motivation and separates out the public
13 interest obligations associated with the spectrum usage
14 from the public interest obligations associated with the
15 potency and pervasiveness and importance of this medium.
16 And the latter may not be something that has a
17 well-understood or certainly not a consistent public
18 policy tradition associated with it, but I think it's
19 valuable to say, hey, for any of these media that have
20 this level of power or pervasiveness how do we think about
21 creating the society we collectively want, whether or not
22 the media sits literally on top of the back of licensed
23 spectrum or whether the media sits on top of
24 infrastructure that's purely commercial where there's no
25 theoretical limit to how much infrastructure there is,
1 where it's a fixed infrastructure where there's no limit
2 to access.
3 And that's tricky, of course, but I think that's
4 among the discussions that we should have in order to end
5 out the end of the chute not only with a great DTV policy,
6 narrowly defined, but with an approach that recognizes the
7 reality of convergence and the intermingling of
9 So I may have additional comments, but you
10 touched on many thoughtful points, and that was one in
11 particular I wanted to just hit headon.
12 MR. BERNOFF: I wanted to address a couple of
13 those issues. First of all, I think Rob has put things in
14 exactly the right perspective as far as public interest
16 Right now, as a consumer you know who ABC is,
17 you know who Channel 4 is. You may not know that your
18 station is owned by A.H. Belo or someone like that. So
19 you have a perception of the local station and the
20 national network.
21 And that will continue. There will be national
22 networks. There will be local stations. But the
23 broadcasters, the local broadcasters will be more in the
24 position that A.H. Belo is right now, that they will have
25 their stream of local broadcasting, including passing
1 through the network feed.
2 And then they will have additional bandwidth.
3 And you should, in my opinion, consider how do we regulate
4 that stream of broadcasting and, second, how do we
5 regulate the use of the additional bandwidth. And those
6 two are not directly related to each other.
7 The second thing has to do with the loan. Based
8 on my projections, this is a loan, but it's a loan that's
9 likely to be over 15 or 20 years, because that's when it's
10 going to become politically viable to shut down the analog
12 And if you want to assess the value of that
13 asset, that's really what it is, is a loan that's not
14 likely to be able politically to be shut down in 2006
15 because of the vast numbers of analog TV sets that will
16 still be in use at that time.
17 MR. ORNSTEIN: Let me throw in a couple of
18 comments here myself. I don't know how far we can get in
19 assessing the value here, because part of the value here
20 is what would happen if there had never been this loan and
21 where would broadcasters be if they simply had an analog
23 If we look out ten years there, the revenue
24 stream is not going to be -- oh, it may be roughly the
25 same or we don't know what it will be -- it will be zero.
1 So the ability to get this loaned spectrum without any
2 bidding is worth something in and of itself. I'm not sure
3 we're going to get very far if we try and put a dollar
4 value on it. We may have to put that issue aside.
5 There are a couple of very large questions here
6 that we will have to in some fashion grapple with. If we
7 know now who the local broadcaster is but not everybody's
8 going to know that it's A.H. Belo, we can at least have
9 some comfort if it is A.H. Belo because of the record of
10 A.H. Belo.
11 But if we look down the road and it's Microsoft,
12 having bought UPN and/or Warner Brothers and a whole bunch
13 of other stations, and in fact the world of broadcasters
14 is a confused one -- that it's Microsoft in partnership
15 with TCI, probably with a satellite and having a whole lot
16 of broadcast stations -- that changes the whole notion of
17 localism and of commitment to public interest.
18 But it also confuses us in terms of whether we
19 should be making this really firm distinction saddling
20 broadcasters, just because of license, with heavy public
21 interest obligations and let others get off scott free in
22 this case or in some other way.
23 So while our mandate is digital television
24 broadcasters, I don't see how we can avoid addressing in
25 some fashion the much larger question of how the public
1 interest is served by all of these different entities and
2 try to make sure that there is a better balance struck.
3 We ought to be recommending, I believe, things along those
5 MS. WHITE: Josh, could you talk with me just
6 for a little while? I was interested in your comment
7 about our public interest obligations, certainly as it
8 pertains to children, and your comments about children not
9 becoming TV junkies.
10 If you've thought about this, then you must have
11 some counter solutions for that, such as more children's
12 programming. I mean, I don't want to put things in your
13 mouth, but just talk to me.
14 MR. BERNOFF: Well, I think something along the
15 lines of the restrictions that are on commercials that
16 take place during children's viewing hours right now are
17 in order.
18 I also think that you have the potential to
19 allow parents to block things. You know, there will be
20 the potential to have extremely graphic programming here,
21 and it ought to be possible to block that out. The
22 graphic potential is a heck of a lot more powerful in this
23 medium than I think it has been with existing television.
24 If you start looking at an HDTV signal, you begin to say
25 wait a minute, this is something completely different.
1 I'm not sure that it's necessary to obligate
2 people to create children's programming, because from what
3 I've seen the level of quality that results from those
4 obligations is highly variable. You know, you will
5 produce a really good, wholesome program for children is
6 not a way to get a broadcaster to create something that
7 people will actually watch, unless your kids are into Wall
8 Street Week kind of programming, I guess.
9 So I guess what I come down to is again to the
10 extent that broadcasters are making money off of the
11 bandwidth you should assess the ways in which that revenue
12 takes place and how that ought to be regulated.
13 And to the extent that broadcasters are
14 delivering programming of a more or less compelling nature
15 and advertising of a more or less compelling nature, you
16 need to put safeguards in to make sure that the audience
17 that presumably doesn't have its own free choice, the
18 children's audience, is not exposed to those things that
19 are going to have a potential negative impact.
20 MS. WHITE: Thank you.
21 MR. SUNSTEIN: Is it right to say that some of
22 the empirical projections that you've made cast in doubt
23 both the scarcity rationale and the unusually powerful
24 forces rationale that Rob referred to?
25 This is linked, obviously, to Norm's suggestion
1 that it might be anachronistic to be focusing on one view
2 of what the empirical projections are, to be focusing on
3 broadcasters alone. Or is that not right?
4 MR. BERNOFF: Well, in terms of the scarcity
5 rationale, I think our telephone companies are regulated
6 because they've been given an opportunity to sell services
7 to consumers that's not available to everybody in their
9 You're in the same situation here. But you have
10 to balance this against all of the other potential media.
11 So I think that yes, you've got to remember that only 40
12 percent of consumers right now have a computer. And even
13 if prices drop, our projections show that that's likely in
14 the next four years to go up to perhaps 60 percent.
15 So the idea that everyone is going to be sucking
16 this stuff down off of the Internet isn't valid, because
17 there are plenty of people who are not going to have
18 access to that.
19 MR. SUNSTEIN: What I'm thinking is, Robert
20 Decherd suggests that 85 percent of consumers will be
21 either on cable or on some sort of satellite, and that
22 suggests that 85 percent of consumers won't be dependent
23 on four networks. If 85 percent of consumers aren't, and
24 if 60 percent, relatively soon, have computers, then
25 doesn't -- this is just a question -- but then the
1 dependence on broadcasters as uniquely the source seems,
2 just on the numbers -- or is something being missed by
4 MR. BERNOFF: There is something being missed,
5 which is that even in cable households there are often
6 television sets that are not hooked up to the cable. But
7 the assessment that this represents a chunk of the viewing
8 hours and that that's what you're putting obligations on,
9 that's the right way to look at it.
10 You're not in a position here where any
11 obligations that you put on the broadcasters are
12 necessarily going to affect the majority of viewers
13 because there are so many that are hooked up to cable and
15 MR. GLASER: There's also just a category of
16 interaction here that I think we're not focusing on, which
17 is in Josh's talk he differentiated between what people
18 watch and what wire comes through. In other words, prime
19 time may be at 50 percent even though the majority of the
20 time people are watching prime time coming from a
21 broadcast system to a cable head-in, through the cable
22 head-in into the cable system.
23 I don't think we have empirical data -- and I
24 think it might be useful to have a more thorough set of
25 information on this -- on what the user experience will be
1 in taking DTV signals that have gone through traditional
2 train branch cable systems.
3 I mean, you've got a lot of repeaters out there
4 that generate noise in the signal, and I think most of the
5 DTV tests that I'm aware of are based on point-to-point
6 DTV, and I think when you actually take that signal
7 through and you take it through a cable head-in, you take
8 it through, there are going to be very interesting
10 So there's a whole set of issues about technical
11 meaning, if you will, of must-carry. If you carry the DTV
12 signal but you degrade it down to a near-NTSC signal, you
13 know, that's going to have interesting implications.
14 So I think that the power dynamics between cable
15 and broadcast could be affected by must-carry rulings,
16 could be affected by the rate at which the cable plant
17 upgrades happen, and could be based on this interaction of
18 what the experience is going to be.
19 Because there's all this forward investment of
20 capital by broadcasting, that's going to put a heck of a
21 lot of pressure on cable to have an infrastructure that
22 can carry that 19 megabit signal in a high quality way.
23 Bruce, I'm interested in your perspective on
24 whether there's a tripwire there or not and what you think
25 will happen.
1 MR. ALLAN: Well, I think the basic thing, when
2 you're talking about can a cable -- yes, in designing the
3 standard there was quite a bit of testing done on what
4 happens with a signal when it's carried by cable. The
5 question is, how will cable carry it.
6 One of the ways is simply to pass the signal
7 through and the DTV set will have the decoder and it can
8 pick off the signal and decode it.
9 The other question is, does the cable head-in
10 decide to remodulate it in QAM, which is their format, so
11 they increase the capacity, and once they're remodulating
12 the question is how have they handled the signal. Do they
13 pass data? There aer a lot of issues.
14 I think some of the points that have been
15 brought up here is the fact that many of the people that
16 the networks compete on aren't regulated now. One of the
17 reasons we could get a direct TV system up in air and
18 operating is that it isn't regulated the way the
19 broadcasters are regulated, and you could put a digital
20 system in the air and run it.
21 And it's been run very well, but there are no
22 basic obligations once that was done. But in cable there
23 aer just a lot of issues on how the signal's going to be
24 in the cable. I mean, people talk about 75 and 85 percent
25 penetration. I guess one of the questions is, but how
1 much of the actual prime viewing time is network
2 programming that's been passed through the cable and how
3 well is it passed has a big impact on where that
4 programming goes.
5 And you get into issues of when networks own
6 multiple programming services, will they be distributing
7 programs themselves over the air. So it's a very complex
8 issue. There's no question about that. That's obvious by
9 the discussions here.
10 And, you know, I'm glad that I only had to work
11 with the standard and that this group has to sit there and
12 come up with the answers for this one, because it is not
13 simple at all and there are just an awful lot of
14 conflicting interests.
15 MR. MOONVES: Just a quick comment. As this
16 panel thinks towards our future, coming up with a
17 document, we have to decide how far-reaching we can be.
18 And, Rob, you know, I'd like to hear your comments. Are
19 we dealing with networks? Are we dealing with cable? Are
20 we dealing with local stations, be they independent? Are
21 we dealing with America On Line?
22 When we make suggestions and recommendations
23 about what the public interest obligation is, how far do
24 we go? I think that addresses a little bit, Norm, of what
25 you were referring to. You know, we've looking at a brave
1 new world here. How far does our reach extend?
2 MR. GLASER: I think the answer to that turns on
3 a few things. One is just literally what our charter is.
4 If our charter is just DTV and shut up about everything
5 else, then we'd better put anything else in the appendix.
6 The second issue is to what extent we come up
7 with almost a consensus on a legal view of the degree to
8 which the public interest obligations of digital
9 broadcasters emanate narrowly from scarcity or other
10 things that are uniquely intrinsic to this transmission
11 method as opposed to other transmission methods.
12 And if we develop the point of view that there
13 are a set of public interest obligations that come from
14 sources not entirely confined to things that are specific
15 to DTV, then it's logical to say, hey, these other forces
16 ought to apply to these other transmission methods.
17 And then if you sort of pass those two hurdles,
18 you get into the interesting question of, hey, given that
19 there is no or certainly not as thorough a regime
20 associated with public interest obligations for these
21 other methods of transmission, how do we integrate one in
22 that might not be as comprehensive as the one that's in
23 place for broadcasting today or that might not be one
24 that's as comprehensive as the DTV one, because there is
25 indeed a spectrum loan that has been applied without an
1 auction, without an open bidding process -- and that has
2 some intrinsic value, even if we can debate what it is and
3 whether all the people that got it would be bidding on it
4 if there were a bid, et cetera.
5 But I would love to see us actually try to say,
6 okay, there are a set of things -- I think kid's content
7 we can probably get to a strong consensus on -- that there
8 ought to be a set of guidelines for video programming that
9 apply, I would think, pretty universally, if you have
10 advertising content versus programming content that there
11 be the kind of differentiated barriers that people like
12 Peggy have fought hard for and ought to apply to all video
13 media, regardless of the transmission method.
14 So I think there are some like that that we can
15 get pretty comfortable with. There may be others in the
16 area of political speech and campaign finance issues that
17 are much harder because these media are so different in
18 terms of how you program for them.
19 But I would like to see us try, and if we pick
20 two or three things and do a good job of those, then I
21 think we start a paradigm of getting people to think of
22 public policy in a convergence world. Maybe that's a
23 little idealistic, but, like Peggy, I must be an idealist
24 because I'm here.
1 MS. STRAUSS: I think it's also important that
2 in considering the fact that there are all of these other
3 various transmission methods that we not cause that to any
4 way lessen the public interest obligations of the
5 broadcasters, and I would urge that we do in fact at least
6 include an appendix, even if we don't feel that our
7 mandate is broad enough, because I think it is problematic
8 that only broadcasters are regulated.
9 There are these other transmission methods.
10 MR. GLASER: I think the cable folks would tell
11 you they think they're regulated too, just not on public
12 interest issues.
13 MS. STRAUSS: They have certain requirements,
14 but they should also have the public interest obligations.
15 At least that would be my view.
16 And I think that we should do whatever we can
17 and stretch our mandate to whatever extent we can that's
18 permissible to help define those as well and make
19 recommendations on those as well.
20 MR. BERNOFF: If I can add a comment here,
21 convergence is baloney. More specifically, people have a
22 way of interacting with their television set which is very
23 unique, and they will evolve that interaction now that the
24 television set is going to have digital capability and
1 And they have a way of interacting with their
2 computer which is pretty much different. So when I think
3 about your mission I think you need to think about
4 everything that happens on that television set and your
5 involvement with it.
6 What do you want to do about the content on
7 there? I think it would be a mistake to say that you're
8 only worried about over-the-air content, because of the
9 diversity of distribution media. And I also think you
10 need to think about you're now in a position of having
11 helped people to have bandwidth and how are you going to
12 regulate the use of that bandwidth to generate profit.
13 So that's sort of an organizing principle in my
15 MR. ORNSTEIN: Of course, we can think of
16 convergence in a variety of ways. We have convergence of
17 ownership. I think that's almost a given at this point.
18 Convergence in terms of the technologies coming
19 together or a confusion of missions, let's explore that a
20 little bit more. At least in previous sessions we've had
21 this vision emerge -- it's certainly not the only one --
22 of a family sitting in a room, a living room or a family
23 room, with a big screen in front of them and some little
24 device that somebody has where they're basically going
25 back and forth between a broadcast channel, a cable
1 channel, a satellite channel, a Web page, maybe an
2 interactive video game, very possibly a video newspaper
3 with all the bells and whistles, far more imaginative than
4 what we saw that Rob put up there.
5 That would be certainly what one would call
6 convergence. That's probably what Gateway had in mind a
7 little bit when they started to move towards this
8 destination, which certainly does seem to be going out
9 very quickly.
10 MR. BERNOFF: You mean the destination no one
11 went to?
12 MR. ORNSTEIN: But that was obviously based on a
13 vision of something like this emerging down the road.
14 You think that that sort of notion of people
15 sitting there in front of their set able to do all of
16 those things is baloney?
17 MR. BERNOFF: No. Let me be more specific.
18 Convergence in my mind is the vision that the
19 devices in our homes will somehow all become very similar
20 to each other and that the content stream that's delivered
21 on them will be very similar to each other. So that
22 whether you're on your telephone, your television, or your
23 computer you're going to be consuming the same thing on
24 the same screen.
25 And in fact when we've studied this, what we've
1 seen is that if you look, for example, at what's happening
2 with WebTV that Internet on your television is of interest
3 to very few people. But if you take the Internet
4 capability and use it to create a television experience,
5 that changes things and you have things like E, the
6 Entertainment Network, changing their Web page around so
7 that it's best delivered on a TV set with lower resolution
8 but with video included in it.
9 So, sort of to elaborate on convergence is
10 baloney, what I'm saying is there is something right now
11 called television, and in the future there will be
12 something called television. It won't be some convergence
13 experience. It will be a television experience.
14 It will have interactivity in it. It will have
15 some Internet transmission going back and forth. And
16 while the infrastructure may be converging and the
17 ownership to a certain extent is converging, there will
18 still be a television experience to think about, and that
19 that in my mind is what the mission of folks like you is,
20 is to figure out what that television experience might be
21 and to what extent you want to make sure that it goes in a
22 direction we all consider desirable.
23 MR. ORNSTEIN: Is there anybody else who hasn't
24 addressed these issues? Then we will make this the last,
25 because we're still on time.
1 MS. SOHN: Let's do a little roleplay, okay?
2 I'm a cable operator and you're broadcasters, and I
3 already carry your analog signal. The FCC's going to be
4 starting a proceeding next month to see whether I should
5 carry maybe five multiplex channels, maybe one high def,
6 one high def and data -- all these different things.
7 Okay? You're asking the FCC to make me, the cable
8 operator, forego some of my First Amendment rights to
9 carry you.
10 Why should I? What's your rationale?
11 MR. GLASER: Well, I think there's an
12 interesting question that I think must-carry is sort of
13 split down the middle on, on whether the cable operator
14 has a First Amendment right to choose what to include or
15 not include or has a common carriage relationship of some
16 form or some fashion.
17 I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on TV, so I
18 may be using the terms inartfully. But almost a common
19 carriage obligation to pass through without blocking or
20 censoring, and the Court's ruling was in essence that the
21 must-carry rule was legal because there was enough of that
22 kind of dimension of common carriage associated with the
23 role that a unique, basically, in some legislated, in some
24 cases monopoly, coaxial cable pipe had in terms of its
25 role as a pathway.
1 Because of that ambivalence about which of those
2 the cable operator is -- in other words, an editorialist
3 or a common carriage pipe -- we're likely to see the
4 rubber hit the road in these other issues where certainly
5 it would seem to me if the interpretation of the FCC was
6 that any linear channel broadcast was an elaboration of
7 current must-carry, I'm sure it would be contentious, but
8 that's doesn't sound like that's breaking a principle.
9 If all of these data interactive transmissions
10 were viewed to be subject to must-carry, then you would
11 just basically be saying to the cable carrier you are just
12 pure conduit and any business can flow through your pipe
13 and we're going to mandate that you have to carry that in
14 as general a way as possible.
15 And I personally don't know what the outcome is.
16 That's not roleplaying as much as prognosticating that
17 that's going to be a tricky determination. One would have
18 to know a lot more about the internal dynamics of the FCC
19 decisionmaking than I certainly do to have a predictive
20 sense of how that is going to play out.
21 MR. ORNSTEIN: Bruce, to follow up on that, just
22 technically, looking down the road for that cable
23 operator, how much of a burden will it be to carry all of
24 what the broadcasters want to put on? Where will that
25 hurt them or cut into their --
1 MR. ALLAN: If you look at it in the most
2 simplistic fashion, we talk about bandwidth. A channel
3 out of a network or a local broadcaster is 6MHz today.
4 With the digital channel, regardless of the programming on
5 it, it's still the same 6MHz bandwidth, so it only takes
6 one channel on the cable station.
7 If the cable should convert it to QAM and go to
8 256QAM, they have doubled the capacity that they would
9 have had before, or quadrupled the capacity, so they can
10 carry those programs and still have additional capacity
11 left over.
12 So if you look at it from a purely technical
13 standpoint on actual bandwidth, the cable system would be
14 asked to carry no more than they are carrying today and
15 utilizing no more of their system than they are today.
16 MR. GLASER: What about the real world, where
17 you've got, in some path, several dozen repeaters along
18 the way that introduce noise and that might not actually
19 send a clean signal through in the same way that a pure
20 broadcast transmission would?
21 MR. ALLAN: Well, I think the question there,
22 you're getting into what is the capability of the system
23 and how valid is the system and the investment.
24 There are new systems that are going to have no
25 problems passing the cable and passing the signal well.
1 There aer other signals right now that have a problem
2 passing just an NTSC signal.
3 MR. GLASER: Right. And this will be far harder
4 than an NTSC in terms of --
5 MR. ALLAN: It's still 6MHz. It's not going to
6 be any harder than an NTSC signal.
7 MR. GLASER: Except a little bit of line noise
8 doesn't mean that you can't seen that Jerry Seinfeld's
9 telling a joke.
10 MR. ALLAN: I've got the ability to do forward
11 error correction and a lot of things to correct and make
12 sure I've really received the signal in the digital world.
13 You can come up with a situation where you've
14 got a problem, but I think the question is just what
15 format do they want to carry it in and how do they want to
16 deliver it. And the issue's going to be who controls the
17 settop box at the end of that cable.
18 MR. ORNSTEIN: Okay. That's a good point, I
19 think, at which to take a break. We will come back in
20 precisely 15 minutes. Thank you both very much. You've
21 been very, very helpful to us. And, Rob, thanks a million
22 for putting this together.
24 MR. ORNSTEIN: If everybody could take their
25 seats, please, we're going to get under way here.
1 MR. MOONVES: We're going to start now. We are
2 under a time constraint, but I'd just like to make one
3 announcement because it was mentioned three times in the
4 last panel. Jerry Seinfeld is off the air, and we are
5 very happy about that. So I just wanted to editorialize
6 for a moment.
7 MR. ORNSTEIN: But there will be six channels of
8 Seinfeld reruns going simultaneously.
9 MR. MOONVES: For the rest of your life.
11 MR. MOONVES: We have a very interesting panel
12 right now on closed captioning and video description of
13 broadcast programming. Fortunately, a member of our
14 committee is Karen Peltz Strauss, who was the lead
15 advocate of the Television Communications Act to expand
16 closed captioning and drafted that section of the
17 Television Communications Act.
18 Karen is legal counsel for the National
19 Association of the Deaf, and she will moderate this panel.
21 BRIEFING ON CLOSED CAPTIONING AND VIDEO DESCRIPTION
22 OF BROADCAST PROGRAMMING
23 MS. STRAUSS: Thank you. I do promise to keep
24 us within our one-half hour time limit so we will be
25 talking very quickly, probably to the dismay of the sign
1 language interpreter. But I'm from New York, and so I can
2 speak pretty fast.
3 (Pause -- power outage.)
4 MR. MOONVES: Power's on. Back to you, Karen.
5 MS. STRAUSS: What I'm going to do is give a
6 very brief overview of closed captioning and basically
7 familiarize you with the legislative history of closed
8 captioning. Then I'm going to pass it quick on to my
9 other members.
10 We've got a really exciting show. Now that
11 we've got your interest, I'm going to proceed for the
12 third time, if we're ready.
13 You all aer very familiar with the benefits of
14 closed captioning for 28 million Americans who are deaf
15 and hard of hearing. It can hardly be disputed. In
16 addition, captioning also helps people who are illiterate,
17 people who are learning English as a second language, and
18 children who aer learning to read.
19 For adults, access to television provides not
20 only a source of entertainment but a critical link to news
21 and information that is really vital to full participation
22 in all aspects of our society.
23 On several occasions, Congress has recognized
24 the benefits of captioning. For example, in discussing
25 the benefits of captioning television, the Senate has
1 explained that, "The development of captioned television
2 has made it possible for deaf and heard of hearing persons
3 to understand what television has to say and in effect to
4 join the mainstream of American society in an era of
5 increased output of and reliance on information."
6 I think that statement this morning was proven
7 to be quite true. As the digital age comes, there will be
8 more opportunity for interaction with our television sets
9 and with the information put forth through those TV sets,
10 and captioning of those programs will become even more
12 Until now the FCC has reserved line 21 of the
13 vertical blanking interval of the broadcast and other
14 analog television signals for the transmission of closed
15 captioning. This has occurred since 1976. Line 21 is the
16 last line in the VBI before the actual television picture
18 The captions are then decoded and generated into
19 visual characters which are displayed on the television
20 screen. Captioning services began in 1980 with a
21 cooperative agreement among ABC, NBC, PBS, the National
22 Captioning Institute, and Sears, Roebuck and Company. And
23 I should mention that WGBH actually had the first
24 captioning program with Julia Childs and then with ABC
25 Late Night News.
1 Under the original agreement, NBC and ABC and
2 PBS each captioned 16 hours of programming per week, and
3 Sears manufactured and distributed caption decoders.
4 You'll be happy to know, Les, that in 1984 CBS also joined
5 and began to transmit captions on its programs.
6 By 1989, the entire prime time schedule on CBS,
7 NBC and ABC was captioned. Although this growth was
8 significant, still the vast majority of cable programming,
9 local news programming, and daytime programming remained
10 without captioning as late as 1990.
11 Many attributed the resistance to increasing
12 captioned hours to the fact that people had to purchase
13 expensive caption decoders that were separated from the
14 TV, and the hookup of these caption decoders was quite
15 difficult. A lot of people got confused about how to hook
16 them up, and, as I indicated, they were expensive.
17 (Pause -- power outage.)
18 MR. MOONVES: We're back. We apologize again,
19 Karen, on behalf of the Madison Hotel.
20 MS. STRAUSS: That's okay.
21 As I just mentioned, one of the reasons that
22 there was not an increase in captions is that people had
23 to purchase their own caption decoders. So in 1990
24 Congress passed the Television Decoder Circuitry Act,
25 which required that as of July 1993 all televisions with
1 screens over 13 inches must have built into those
2 televisions the decoder chip, and the decoder chip enables
3 anybody to decode closed captioning.
4 That has been enormously successful. The costs
5 have been minimal, and now millions of people across
6 America have access to captioning.
7 What we were hoping was that with this chip
8 there would be enough economic incentive for stations to
9 increase their captioning. However, what happened is that
10 between 1990 or 1993 and 1996, in fact there was only a
11 marginal increase in the percentage of shows that were
12 being captioned, especially on cable television.
13 So, in 1996, in the Telecommunications Act, we
14 pushed for and were successful in getting legislation that
15 would significantly expand the availability of closed
16 captions. In August of 1997 the FCC issued its rules
17 implementing that Act, and in those rules requires that 95
18 percent of all new television programming be accessible
19 within eight years, and for former programming, older
20 programming, 10 years is the time schedule for
21 implementing captioning.
22 There are significant exemptions to those
23 requirements, for example exemptions for short
24 advertisements, for overnight programming, for
25 interstitials, and for some local programming, et cetera.
1 But it will significantly expand the availability of
3 What I'd like to do now is to present the two
4 next panelists. To my left is James Tucker. He is the
5 superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf, and he
6 will speak as a citizen, as a parent, as a deaf person,
7 and as an educator to talk just very briefly about the
8 benefits of captioning for, most notably, school children
9 and deaf individuals.
10 To his left is Larry Goldberg, and Larry
11 Goldberg is the director of media access at the WGBH
12 Educational Foundation, as well as the director of the
13 Corporation for Public Broadcasting/WGBH National Center
14 for Accessible Media, which he founded in 1993 as a
15 department within WGBH, which is Boston's public
16 television station.
17 The media access departments at WGBH consists of
18 the caption center, descriptive video service, and NCAM.
19 And Larry will speak on both captioning and video
20 description and will also provide some video
21 demonstrations of these technologies in the digital era.
22 I will now pass the room over to James Tucker.
23 MR. TUCKER: Members of the Gore Commission,
24 thank you for the opportunity to come this morning. I
25 would like to give you a crash course in sign language.
1 If you would follow me, put your hands in the
2 okay gesture, touch the fingers together and move them
3 back and forth. Guess what that means? Captioning. Now
4 you know the sign for captioning. That is the beloved
5 sign amongst our community.
6 Before I provide my three minutes worth of words
7 of experience, let me just mention that captioning is not
8 a deaf thing. It's definitely not. I can bet you that
9 most people who are watching captioning are in fact
10 hearing people. We call them people with hearing --
11 hearing people.
12 People watch TV in bars and are unable to hear
13 the sound, and so they often will ask the bartender to
14 turn on the captioning. Or at airports again I'm seeing
15 people turning on captioning in those kinds of places.
16 I would like to share very briefly with you the
17 four roles that I play and represent here today. First,
18 as a citizen, I vote, as the rest of you do, but I was
19 never really informed until just recently. My favorite
20 programs when I was growing up were sports and the Three
21 Stooges, and Julia Childs.
23 MR. TUCKER: That third one only because Julia
24 Childs, as Karen has already mentioned, was captioned.
25 Today I am very informed. I can learn from the
1 television about community events, about cultural events,
2 government affairs, world affairs, Washington events. I
3 vote as much more informed now.
4 My second role that I represent today is as a
5 consumer. I have money to burn. I'm looking at the
6 products I see on the television. I'm making decisions as
7 to which of those products I want to buy. I'm looking
8 forward to the Super Bowl game.
9 In the deaf community here in America we keep
10 two scores. First, the football game score. Secondly,
11 how many of the commercials are captioned. And the
12 results are printed in the national deaf newspapers.
13 Thirdly, the third role I play is that of an
14 educator. Captioning has brought so much to our
15 classrooms. As you know, deaf children are visual
16 learners. Deaf people like myself depend on our eyes for
17 visual input, to learn. So there aer books, magazines,
18 newspapers, and now captioning.
19 It's also used in classrooms where English is a
20 second language. And now we're seeing regular classrooms
21 utilizing captioning technology as well.
22 Finally, and perhaps my most important role, is
23 that I am a father. I have two children. I have a boy
24 who is 7-1/2, who is hearing. And my second child is
25 deaf, a girl, and she's 4.
1 My first child, without my having done anything
2 special, is having a normal life with us at home, is
3 already reading quite well for his age. And when you
4 consider what the reason is, I think we can relate it to
5 captioning, because often I myself forget to turn on the
6 volume at home on our television set, but he's able to
7 enjoy the programs anyway by reading the captions.
8 Maybe we should force all hearing children to
9 get in the habit of reading TV.
11 MR. TUCKER: I also wanted to add that
12 captioning technology is something that's growing.
13 Amongst the deaf community, we would appreciate access to
14 that kind of technological opportunities. We would like
15 to be able to control the captioning features -- for
16 example, change the font size, the shape, the color, or
17 the location of the captions as they appear on the screen.
18 Sometimes I don't know the score of the game, because the
19 captions cover up the characters.
20 When you finalize your recommendations, I would
21 ask you to please consider the deaf community and the rest
22 of the country in that we want full access to captioning
23 technology in this new digital age.
24 Thank you.
25 MR. GOLDBERG: As most of you know, captioning
1 has become a routine post-production process for much of
2 today's television industry. With decades of help from
3 the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for
4 Public Broadcasting and most networks and producers, along
5 with a few Congressional nudges, captioning is both
6 accepted by the television industry and expected by most
7 consumers, as you've heard.
8 With the coming of the digital era, however, the
9 pressure is now on to make the transition smoothly. We
10 need to make continual service for both analog and digital
11 programming. A standard for captioning has been crafted
12 in the digital domain, and it incorporates the new
13 features and services and takes advantage of added
14 bandwidth and advanced technology so that the captioning
15 of the future can match the enhanced picture and audio
16 quality and myriad new services we are all about to
18 Unfortunately, this standard, developed by a
19 subcommittee of the Electronic Industries Association,
20 with participation by manufacturers and caption service
21 providers, has suffered from a severe lack of attention by
22 the television industry.
23 It's barely been tested in even its first
24 prototype stage. Virtually no hardware or software exists
25 for creating, encoding and decoding captioned data, and
1 tests have yet to take place of live captioning or
2 simultaneous captioning for analog and digital.
3 The staff and budgets of the caption agencies
4 are being stretched to the limit to complete these tasks.
5 Maybe this lagging development is no different than what
6 the rest of the TV industry is going through to get ready
7 for the launch of digital broadcasting, but with so few
8 resources being committed to developing the required
9 technologies there's a danger that the first receivers
10 sold to consumers and the first digital stations that go
11 on the air will have at best a rudimentary captioning
12 capability and, at worst, none at all.
13 Today's TV system has a very robust and fully
14 featured closed captioning capability. With recently-
15 granted FCC permission, we can now provide, on any
16 program, up to four streams of captioning, four text
17 channels, and something called extended data services, or
18 XDS, which can set your VCR clock, tell you what program
19 or network you are turned to, and act as the content
20 advisory or V-chip locking service.
21 While the look of today's captions is still a
22 bit coarse, digital TV will give us the opportunity to
23 upgrade the entire look and feel of captions.
24 Before I show you a tape of what captions can
25 look like in the next few years, I want to sound a
1 cautionary note. Those extended data services I mentioned
2 are not related to captions in any way. They just happen
3 to share some available protected bandwidth.
4 The implementation of ancillary data services in
5 digital TV, such as extended data services or Worldwide
6 Web data, or conditional access, should not impinge upon
7 the 9600 baud bandwidth that has been set aside for
8 captioning. No one has directly addressed this question
9 yet. But there is a concern that the limited set-aside of
10 bandwidth for captioning may be desired for services not
11 specifically created for deaf and hard of hearing viewers,
12 as mandated by Congress and the FCC.
13 Now for the tape. Hopefully our technology's
14 going to be working. This would be the first ATVCC dub
15 tape. You'll see simulations of captions that use the
16 proposed features from the ATVCC standard. Just hold it
17 for a second.
18 What you'll see first is the caption volume
19 control which James mentioned, actually. This would give
20 user control over the size of the caption, so we call it
21 caption volume. What you won't see but have been written
22 into the standard are 15 streams of captions per program,
23 user or provider selection of fonts, and highly flexible
24 screen placement and a variety of options to improve
25 legibility of on-screen text and backgrounds.
1 (A videotape was shown.)
2 MR. GOLDBERG: This is a simulation, and
3 actually you could probably take out the audio, whoever is
4 in charge of audio here. If you've seen closed captions
5 on TV today, you know that they don't look this nice.
6 We've got nice, well-formed fonts and the background is as
7 goodlooking at digital TV can look like in the future.
8 If you just fast-forward a little bit there and
9 let it play there, now we have captions for people whose
10 vision might be going a little bit. It's larger. And
11 this is what we call the caption volume control. It's
12 written into the standard, and it's just a question of
13 what would actually be available in TV sets.
14 If you go ahead and fast-forward again and play
15 this clip here, we found out from research, it's kind of
16 interesting. Younger people prefer these smaller
17 captions; older folks prefer the larger captions -- not a
20 MR. GOLDBERG: Why don't you go ahead and eject
21 that tape and we'll play a short clip from the next one?
22 (A videotape was shown.)
23 MR. GOLDBERG: Captioning in digital TV is far
24 from brain surgery compared to all the other technological
25 feats that are going to be performed, so this is easy.
1 When I mentioned 9600 baud bandwidth set-aside, look at
2 how tiny that is compared to the full 19MHz that are
4 Now here's captioning with a much nicer look
5 too. There's a slight gray mist behind. It's got a drop
6 shadow. You can see through them. All of this is
7 actually possible and written into what we call the ATVCC
8 standard. It might be the kind of captions everyone would
9 want to look at at the same time.
10 You can stop that tape now.
11 As I said, not all these features will be in all
12 TV sets because what is required to built in versus what
13 is optional has yet to be determined, and actually there's
14 not even a process for making a decision on how to make a
15 decision. But there's a lot to be done, and we're hoping
16 for a much wider and extensive effort to get us there.
17 Now let me switch gears a little bit and talk
18 about television access for blind and visually impaired
19 people. Video description was developed by public
20 television in the late 1980s and officially launched in
21 1990 on American Playhouse.
22 Once again, the U.S. Department of Education and
23 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting made it possible
24 to develop, launch, and sustain the service. Today you
25 can find described programming on PBS, the Turner Classic
1 Movie Channel, and hundreds of home videos, and even a few
3 To hear the video description on cable or
4 broadcast programs you need only a stereo TV or VCR with
5 secondary audio program or SAP capability. This feature
6 is available in most consumer video equipment sold today.
7 Video description is, like captioning, free to consumers.
8 But rather than talk any more about DVS, let me
9 play an example of a program, first without and then with
10 descriptions, and for the full experience you might want
11 to close your eyes. You will need audio for this.
12 (A videotape was played.)
13 MR. GOLDBERG: That really helps you understand
14 Shakespeare too, doesn't it?
16 MR. GOLDBERG: Now I'd like to introduce Nolan
17 Crabb, editor of the Braille Forum, a monthly publication
18 of the American Council of the Blind, to give you the
19 consumer's perspective on video description. Nolan.
20 MR. CRABB: Thank you. I do promise to stay
21 within my time constraints. I'm sure someone will get the
22 word to me. My friend here on the floor invariably sleeps
23 through my presentations, without apology, so getting the
24 word to him and then getting it to me won't be reliable.
25 Before you can understand the importance of
1 video description, ladies and gentlemen, you have to
2 recognize that blind and visually impaired Americans are
3 in fact avid television viewers. Some of you hear me say
4 that and you think that's about as likely as a ski resort
5 on the equator perhaps, or whatever.
6 But the reality is that blind and partially-
7 sighted people do in fact watch as much television as do
8 their sighted counterparts, based on a study that I've
9 seen from the U.S. Department of Education and carried out
10 by the American Foundation for the Blind.
11 The numbers are almost identical. 99 percent,
12 according to the study, of blind and low vision people own
13 television sets. 83 percent of those people own VCRs and
14 use VCRs, compared with about 84 percent or so of the
15 sighted group.
16 That's a staggering number when you stop to
17 realize that VCR makers generally don't even make the
18 equipment accessible in a way that a blind person can use
19 it easily. And yet they are interested enough in the
20 programming and in the industry that they own the
21 equipment and do the best they can to make the material
23 Those of us who are blind parents -- and I'm the
24 father of four daughters -- must watch TV if we're to ever
25 have any meaningful part in the lives of our children.
1 It's just that obvious. Video description is important
2 for a variety of reasons, but that's one of them.
3 I recall an incident, if you'll allow me a
4 little bit of personal indulgence, a time where I was home
5 alone with my little girl, who was then two -- this has
6 been several years ago. There was a children's program on
7 PBS geared toward her age bracket, of course, and there
8 was a moment of silence in the programming and I could
9 tell that she was watching with rapt attention.
10 And then suddenly she said, "That ball pretty.
11 Is red?" She was just beginning to be aware of her colors
12 a little bit, and, of course, coming in age in terms of
13 speech. I had no idea how to help her. I didn't even
14 know the character had a ball in his hand, let alone the
15 color of the ball, and was unable really to provide much
16 to her in the form of information.
17 Had we had video description at the time on that
18 particular program, I probably would have been able to be
19 of more value to her and more interactive with her and the
21 Now we all have to look at the bottom line, and
22 lest you think that video description is good only to help
23 a blind father with his child in terms of learning her
24 colors, we need to think again. It has far greater
25 importance than that.
1 Video description actually is a great tool in
2 terms of education. It's a great tool in terms even of
3 helping blind and low vision people stay employed. Now
4 that seems a little strange. Let me help you think about
5 that a minute.
6 We generally think of people with whom we work,
7 and the ones that we work best with are those with whom we
8 have the most interaction socially on many occasions.
9 That's a given. That's pretty much documentable.
10 A blind or low vision person is able to
11 contribute to the conversation around the water cooler
12 about last night's movie, if video description has been
13 part of that presentation. If not, the blind or
14 partially-sighted individual is usually condemned to
15 either silence or to a sort of wondering awe in which he
16 says something like, "Oh, so that's what happened. It
17 didn't make sense to me last night."
18 And then you perhaps will ask a question about
19 the presentation. But what happened when such and such,
20 or when this person did such and such?
21 The reality is that video description does in
22 fact enhance the social factors as well as the educational
23 factors for blind adults and children, as we see in
24 America more and more sighted kids are dissecting digital
25 frogs using CD-ROMs and computers, and I'm sure digital
1 television will also blossom in the classroom as well.
2 The absence of video description in that kind of an arena
3 will be a sad thing indeed, as blind children become left
4 out of that process.
5 We would hope that we would see additional
6 amounts of video description. A wide array of this
7 service is really the only way we will know whether it's
8 useful in other arenas other than for blind and low vision
9 people. I think we'll find that it is.
10 My sighted wife has often commented that had she
11 not seen the program described, she would have missed a
12 certain element about it that was there.
13 The scope of my testimony really can't go into
14 the technology. I heard this morning some talk about the
15 importance of passing the complete digital signal through
16 cable and so on. And we heard that that's an easy thing
17 to do. And yet cable companies throughout the country are
18 stripping the SAP channel away from the analog signal
19 already in almost epidemic proportions.
20 We would hope that digital television could in
21 fact be constructed in such a way that the entire signal,
22 including video description, could be passed through the
24 I'm an extra class Ham operator who understands
25 a little bit about packet radio, and I know there's a big
1 difference between packet radio and data packets sent via
2 digital television, but certainly we would want and hope
3 that the signal would be complete and that video
4 description could go unencumbered in that regard.
5 The other thing that we would plead with you to
6 think about -- and I realize that it's a little beyond the
7 purview of this commission to deal with the receivers
8 themselves perhaps -- but we would hope that you would
9 consider the idea that without an accessible way of
10 turning on and off the description a blind person would
11 find it almost unusable, if he couldn't have a way to
12 independently turn it on and off.
13 We are entering into an era of highly graphical
14 point and shoot kind of interfaces, and if you've ever
15 shut your eyes and tried to work with the on-screen menu
16 on your television set you know that that's a very
17 difficult thing indeed. So we are hopeful that we can
18 talk to manufacturers as well as to you about the
19 importance of an accessible way of turning this service on
20 and off.
21 The reality is simply this, ladies and
22 gentlemen, that video description is an important and
23 vital process that ought to be mandated. If we fail to do
24 something about it in the digital TV world, as we stand at
25 this historic crossroad, blind and low vision people will
1 be excluded unnecessarily.
2 And whether it means a greater ability to teach
3 a little girl her colors by her father, or greater
4 acceptance at the workplace or whatever, video description
5 really is a vital and ought to be a mandated part of the
6 digital TV spectrum.
7 Thank you very much.
8 MR. GOLDBERG: Thank you, Nolan.
9 Let me just quickly catch a few technical points
10 here. As you heard, description is not mandated by the
11 FCC, like captioning is. But they have studied the
12 question in a recent report just released this week on the
13 status of competition in markets for the delivery of video
15 The FCC did recommend that any requirement for
16 video description begin with a gradual rollout of the
17 service on limited types and amounts of programming in the
18 largest markets and by the largest providers. Who would
19 impose such a requirement was left unstated.
20 The ATSC digital TV standard incorporates the
21 flexibility to carve out a portion of the data signal for
22 additional audio tracks, and that's for video description,
23 or for other languages or for director's comments.
24 However, even though the technical standard allows for
25 ancillary audio services, nothing is required of
1 manufacturers of the new sets to ensure that consumers
2 will be able to receive any or all of these additional
3 audio services.
4 It's vital to the future of video description
5 service that all manufacturers include this feature in all
6 DTV sets and not just certain models.
7 Let me skip ahead to, of course, reinforcing Mr.
8 Crabb's comment about the difficulty of navigating through
9 on-screen menus. That's a problem for sighted people, so
10 obviously you can realize how much of a problem it is for
11 blind folks as well.
12 The greatest concern at this point for
13 description is the universal availability of ancillary
14 audio channel decoding capability in all DTV sets. We're
15 also concerned about the lack of any bandwidth guarantees
16 for this or any other audio service, and, as I said, it
17 sure would be nice if the user interface were more
19 Let me just finish by saying that when looking
20 at public interest obligations it seems like serving deaf
21 and blind people should be a very easy win-win situation.
22 This is a population of people ready, willing, and able to
23 pay as much as anyone else for the full gamut of digital
24 services coming. These folks are not looking for
25 subsidies or freebies. They are a real market with credit
1 cards in hand.
2 With a little bit of attention to the
3 technological developments and a relatively tiny post-
4 production cost, all deaf and hard of hearing and blind
5 and visually impaired consumers can be equal partners in
6 the digital world. And if you think deaf or blind
7 consumers is too small a market niche to deal with, try
8 inviting all 34 million of them to dinner sometime.
9 Or, better yet, imagine a $50 per month digital
10 broadband income stream from 34 million customers hungry
11 for accessible media in all of its forms. Or imagine that
12 same monthly $1.7 billion market drifting away to other
13 media because a few forward-thinking steps weren't taken
14 or because a fraction of a percentage of production and
15 transmission development funds weren't committed.
16 Many of us would like to grow to ripe old age,
17 and at that time unfortunately many of our own personal
18 analogs human systems will begin to fail. When your sight
19 or hearing begins to go, won't you still want your MTV?
20 Thank you.
21 MR. MOONVES: Thank you. Thank you everybody on
22 the panel. I think they were very eloquent comments.
24 MS. CHARREN: It's not a question. It's a sort
25 of conditional comment. I watched at WGBH description
1 video services happening, and I'd like to add one other
2 benefit. It's an extraordinary place for unemployed
3 English majors.
5 MS. CHARREN: These wonderful people sit there
6 and add those delicious words to the story.
7 MR. GOLDBERG: We'd love to hire many, many
9 MR. ORNSTEIN: I have a couple of questions. I
10 guess they are practical questions. Some of the areas
11 that you're talking about obviously are beyond our
12 mandate. We don't deal with the manufacturers. I think
13 we may very well want to address it in a side way or even
14 address a suggestion that the cable operators deal with
16 Presumably what you're talking about for us it
17 simply making sure that what seems to be a very small part
18 of the bandwidth that is already reserved be kept
19 reserved. What I'd like to know is, if that is the case,
20 what it involves and also what are the costs here?
21 There clearly is a cost to somebody for putting
22 the video description on. I assume it's a cost to the
23 programmers, generally, but how does that work out? And
24 what would the cost be to broadcasters here for any of the
25 sorts of things that you would like done?
1 MR. GOLDBERG: I guess those are technical
2 questions so they're mine.
3 The reason I brought up the issue of the
4 manufacturing side of things is that every technical
5 committee I've ever sat on at the EIA or SMPTE always has
6 broadcasters involved. In the development of digital TV
7 it's been a very cooperative effort. So clearly we all
8 need to work together so that the content side is also
9 feeding the receipt side.
10 The protecting of bandwidth for captioning is
11 pretty well set, especially because it's part of the TV
12 Decoder Circuitry Act. But it's the development that's
13 needed to get us there.
14 As broadcasters, the "setaside for video
15 description" is problematic, because, as you've heard
16 today, this giant pipeline can be cut up in several
17 different ways. And if you're going with a high
18 definition signal you're using most of the bandwidth.
19 If you're going with four, five or six standard
20 definition TV services, then you're really using an awful
21 lot of your bandwidth for other services, including
22 perhaps these personal pagers and cellulars and so forth.
23 So the question is that as you begin feeding
24 extra audio services, if it's not done in a consistent way
25 across the board, then it won't be a reliable service for
1 folks like Mr. Crabb to be able to get on a regular basis.
2 If there's always an audio channel to be tuned into and
3 always available on the sets, it's sort of a chicken and
4 egg situation. The manufacturers won't build it into
5 their set if the broadcasters aren't using it, and vice
7 The way we saw that in today's SAP channel,
8 which was added to the sets when stereo TV was invented,
9 was that the manufacturers said this might be of interest
10 for second language programming, start adding a Spanish
11 track to TV shows.
12 And the manufacturers said, oh, well then we'll
13 build in the capability. But for many years no one was
14 really using that capability, so the manufacturers began
15 to offer it as a more expensive option, until DVS came
16 along and we saw a channel to exploit, and then finally
17 the manufacturers said, well, as long as it's being
18 utilized we'll build it into our sets.
19 As for the cost of DVS, today it's round about
20 $5,000 per hour of programming, give or take, because
21 programs are different, the turnaround requirements and so
22 forth. The broadcaster today needs to have stereo
23 broadcasting capability and what's called a SAP exciter.
24 Generally the SAP part of it is only $5,000, but if you're
25 not already stereo then you've got to upgrade to stereo.
1 In digital TV we don't anticipate there will be
2 any additional cost for the infrastructure to transmit
3 extra audio. That's the flexibility of digital TV. We'll
4 be able to encode or reconfigure the use of that bandwidth
5 for 5.1 channels of audio or just stereo plus ancillary
7 So it's the flexibility of these digital
8 encoders and decoders that will enable the cost for the
9 infrastructure description to be pretty low.
10 MR. ORNSTEIN: So what should we do? What would
11 you want us to do?
12 MR. GOLDBERG: Well, I think involvement in the
13 standards creation process -- most broadcasters have seats
14 on the ATSC, SMPTE, CEMA, EIA -- to be aware that there's
15 this audio question, and a lot of other technical issues I
16 didn't even attempt to bring up today, in addition to the
17 fact that, as we've heard many, many times today, analog
18 TV is here with us a long, long time.
19 You're building a body of programming today that
20 will be used in digital television. So the time is now to
21 begin describing programming that will be utilized in the
22 future, to begin experimenting with the whole broadcast
23 transmission of digital TV with DVS, and then to utilize
24 that with the settop boxes and with the digital sets.
25 MS. SOHN: Could I just get a point of
1 clarification? Are you saying that the broadcaster
2 station owner should be the one that pays for the
4 MR. GOLDBERG: Oh, that was another part of the
5 question. At this point, captioning is paid for by either
6 the producer or the distributor -- that is, the network or
7 cable provider. Because of the new Telecom Act, the costs
8 are likely to be shifted much more to the producer of the
9 programming, the holder of the copyright.
10 Today in description it's being paid almost
11 exclusively by government funds, by Department of
12 Education grants. But those are limited and will only
13 give a limited rollout.
14 It seems also likely that the burden of paying
15 for description will fall mostly on the producer or the
16 licenser of that program, that is, the distributor. That
17 seems to be the natural way to split the costs. Since
18 you're licensing it for a limited period of time, right
19 now the distributors -- CBS, ABC, NBC -- pay for a portion
20 of those costs. And the same would be likely for
21 description in the future as well.
22 MR. SUNSTEIN: There's an obvious puzzle in this
23 area, which is if there are 34 million viewers and it's
24 $5,000 per hour to make viewing available, why doesn't the
25 market provide that? In other words, if those are the
1 numbers, there shouldn't be any need for regulation.
2 MR. GOLDBERG: I was thinking that that question
3 was going to be asked today too. I think that in the
4 world of relying on the marketplace to trigger services
5 like this it's a question of what other markets does a
6 broadcaster have the ability to go after and how easy are
7 they. How understandable are they?
8 In the world of Internet services or data
9 broadcasting or television, there's the low-hanging fruit.
10 There's the market niches that a broadcaster understands.
11 I don't think there's a large enough awareness of the
12 disabilities community for broadcasters, cablecasters to
13 really understand the power of that market.
14 It hasn't been felt yet, but it is absolutely
16 MS. STRAUSS: If I could just add to that, in
17 fact captioning is a good example of how the market, at
18 least the broadcasters did respond to the market.
19 Initially there was very little captioning, and as the
20 broadcasters recognized how widely it was received it
21 really picked up, although, as I said, we needed a little
22 bit of help with the Telecommunications Act.
23 Video description is much newer, and so the goal
24 here is to at least preserve whatever bandwidth is
25 necessary to ensure that when it does catch on there is
1 going to be the technology available to send it through.
2 I mean, that's really the purpose.
3 That's how I see my purpose on this committee,
4 to make sure that whatever needs to be in place is in
5 place, so that in the future, when it does pick up,
6 however it picks up, whether through legislation or
7 through economic market incentives, there's not a
8 technological barrier to that.
9 MR. MOONVES: Karen, has there been any research
10 done about what in fact the closed captioning has done for
11 the broadcaster and the advertiser? In other words, is
12 there an economic basis on which, yes, this worked there.
13 If you do it in video description it will also work.
14 MS. STRAUSS: There was some research done with
15 respect to television manufacturers. In 1990, when we
16 were going to Congress to get the decoder chip act passed,
17 there was evidence that we were able to show, by Zenith
18 and some other television manufacturers, about the
19 economic incentives and the economic benefits to making
20 closed captioning available.
21 And it proved very viable. In fact, Zenith
22 began installing the decoder chip before they were
23 mandated to do so because they found it so attractive in a
24 business environment.
25 MR. MOONVES: Yes, Harold.
1 MR. CRUMP: May I, just as an aside. I was
2 struck by my own reaction to this as I sat here with my
3 eyes closed listening to it. And I immediately thought of
4 the fact that we have had in the past many times
5 television stations doing simulcasts with radio stations
6 on public service programs, football games, et cetera.
7 And what I was listening to, to me, seemed to be
8 radio. So perhaps there's another opportunity here, as we
9 talk about commercialism, where we might do simulcasting,
10 and it literally would come down to radio and television
11 together. Oversimplification, but there you are.
12 MR. GOLDBERG: In today's distribution of
13 description video there are a number of radio stations
14 that actually do provide that. It's a question of getting
15 that air time on a radio station as well. But that's
16 certainly a possibility.
17 There's even possibilities of simulcasting
18 through Mr. Glaser's RealNetworks the audio portion of a
19 TV program, and once everyone's more capable of turning
20 their PC on we could synchronize that as well.
21 If I could just go back to one question about
22 the marketplace and description video, how many people
23 here heard description for the first time today?
24 (A show of hands.)
25 MR. GOLDBERG: We don't have a lot of funds for
1 PR to make sure that people really do understand that.
2 But, as you can hear from Mr. Crabb and his very large
3 organizations that he works for, there's a lot of folks
4 out there. But it's still an awareness issue for many,
5 many people.
6 MR. MOONVES: I'd like to thank all of you. We
7 will skip the break that is on our schedule and go right
8 into the national disaster information systems. Thank
9 you, Karen.
10 MR. ORNSTEIN: We're going to now hear from Dr.
11 Peter Ward, who is with the U.S. Geological Survey, who
12 communicated with us early on as the chairman of the
13 working group, a cross-agency group, on natural disaster
14 information services, on basically how the digital
15 technology offers opportunities for dealing with early
16 warnings and accurate information about disasters.
17 Thanks for joining us, Dr. Ward.
18 BRIEFING ON NATURAL DISASTER INFORMATION SYSTEMS
19 DR. WARD: Thank you for the invitation.
20 The working group on natural disaster
21 information systems has a goal of evaluating and fostering
22 ways to integrate public and private resources and
23 infrastructure to ensure that the most accurate, timely,
24 and technical information is available to those that can
25 use it -- to save lives, reduce losses, speed response and
2 It's a committee of Federal employees, all of
3 which are integrally related to either the sources of this
4 information or ways of getting the information out, or
5 ways that regulate the ways the information gets out.
6 What we wanted to do was make you aware of our effort.
7 It's under way, and it has some implications.
8 What I want to do is put a small blip on your
9 radar screen, small because the bandwidth we're talking
10 about is essentially trivial. But it's a very large blip
11 in terms of the potential benefits for the American people
12 and the public relations benefit I think for the
13 broadcasting industry.
14 The problem we're facing is that natural
15 disasters in this country are becoming very expensive. In
16 the last five years, the average cost has been $1 billion
17 a week, actually $52.4 billion a year. Single future
18 disasters -- the Northridge earthquake in 1994 was $42
19 billion, but an anticipated earthquake in the eastern part
20 of San Francisco Bay region we anticipate losses of about
21 $150 billion in about 25 seconds. And this will be
22 similar to the Kobe, Japan, earthquake a couple of years
24 The problem is that more and more people are
25 moving into urban areas at risk and our infrastructure is
1 becoming much more complex and much more expensive.
2 We find that being able to provide information
3 rapidly before an event or even during an event or
4 immediately after an event does lead to significant cost
5 savings and potential savings of life. Obviously an early
6 warning of the tornado is down the street and headed in
7 your direction is clear. In the case of an earthquake, we
8 can now, or we will within a short time be able within
9 tens of seconds to say the earthquake has occurred.
10 And if you're far enough away, like 20, 30, 40,
11 50 miles away, you we can actually tell you the waves are
12 going to arrive in five, 10, 15 seconds, which is enough
13 time for schoolchildren to get under their desks or for
14 preplanning programs to shut down factories or close up
15 critical pipelines or whatever to begin.
16 So there's a potential now of getting
17 information very, very quickly, and the problem is
18 delivering it to those that need it.
19 Now, there is a system in place that many of you
20 may be aware of, probably are, the emergency alert system.
21 It replaces the emergency broadcast system. There has
22 been a revamp this year. It's mandated by the FCC. The
23 new form of the EAS includes a digital packet of
24 information that goes out, and up to about a two-minute
25 verbal information, which on television is often changed
1 to a scroll at the bottom of the screen.
2 And this is mandated for Federal information,
3 not necessarily for state information. For example a
4 chemical spill that would occur in a town, the local
5 channels have a choice as to whether to put it out, and,
6 depending upon the priority of the message, they have a
7 choice as to how long they could delay before the message
8 actually goes out.
9 One of the problems we're finding in dealing
10 with disaster warning would seem rather clear when you
11 stop and think about it. It is that if you're woken out
12 of your sleep being told that there's a flash flood
13 warning, but that flood is actually ten miles away and
14 isn't going to affect you at all, and if this happens
15 several times you're going to figure out how to disconnect
16 that device that's giving you that information.
17 And even if you're not woken out of your sleep,
18 if you just keep hearing these warnings about catastrophes
19 and they don't actually affect you, it's only natural that
20 when you hear them in the future you say, ah, I've heard
21 that before. That's not an issue.
22 Well, what's exciting about the digital future
23 is we see the potential of having smart receivers. For
24 example, the television set, the pager, whatever the
25 receiver is, can have a small computer that can say,
1 tornado touchdown five miles southwest, headed in your
2 direction; go to the basement. Earthquake waves arrive in
3 10 seconds.
4 The idea is that you can personalize the message
5 to the particular person, to where they are location-
6 wise, and to what their interests are. You might be able
7 to put a profile in, and the individual person says, well,
8 I really don't care about tornados; don't tell me about
9 those. Or, even to go further, it might be possible in
10 the future to say I want to know about tornados where
11 Grandmother lives.
12 And this information that's in the airwaves,
13 just small amounts of digital information that's going
14 out, it's the user and the user's receiver that can decide
15 what they get and whether it interrupts them, whether it
16 wakes them up at night, and what the details are in terms
17 of distance to the event, the size of the event, what it's
18 going to mean to them.
19 We're looking at the application of this on many
20 different technologies. We are working with the AM
21 digital standards and looking at it in terms of cellular
22 phones and many of the other kinds of receivers. But the
23 idea is that we see a way of getting the information
24 centralized and to various distribution channels.
25 So the message I wanted to leave you with was
1 the concept that a few years, five or 10 years at the
2 most, in the future we stand the possibility of being able
3 to take fairly simple, short digital messages that
4 broadcast widely and having hardware that's sold in the
5 stores that allows people to utilize this information in
6 whatever way is best for them.
7 The public relations value of this in terms of
8 what the distribution channel is is tremendous. There is
9 an individual in Missouri who is working on using cellular
10 phone technology to say where a tornado is. You can light
11 up all the phones within a given cell.
12 What the manufacturers have found, or those that
13 are trying to put the equipment out there, is that when
14 they go before the local zoning boards and ask to put a
15 tower in the town, when they say we have this piece here
16 for public value, all of a sudden the zoning board's more
17 interested. And in fact the headway he's made
18 unofficially has really been from that standpoint, that
19 the providers have found is a real value.
20 So again what are we talking about. A very
21 small amount of digital information, really hundreds of
22 bits at most, a very small bandwidth, maybe 1200 baud or
23 less, but a stream of information that has official
24 information about anything from earthquakes, volcanos,
25 tornados, floods, chemical spills, major traffic
1 accidents, whatever.
2 And that could be available on any variety of
3 receivers. It might even turn the receivers on, set the
4 volume, and give the message.
5 Thank you.
6 MR. ORNSTEIN: So basically what we should do is
7 think about making sure that this small bandwidth is
8 reserved for this purpose. At this point it's not
10 DR. WARD: At this point it's not mandated.
11 It's not clear whether a mandate's going to be necessary.
12 But the reason I was talking to you is, yes, to think
13 about whether a small bandwidth for disaster information,
14 for warning information, would be appropriate.
15 This ties in also with intelligent
16 transportation systems and the communication needs they
17 have. And that's another area we're working on. So there
18 are many different applications there, but I think the key
19 issue is that small bandwidth.
20 I also put a single line on here suggesting that
21 there is a need for more educational information about
22 disasters -- how you can prepare, how you can deal with
23 them. And that's a slightly different issue. I just
24 wanted to leave that in there as a point.
25 MS. STRAUSS: Apropos of the earlier panel, I'm
1 curious to know whether you've given any consideration or
2 whether there's been any efforts to ensure that the
3 information that's passed through is accessible to people
4 with disabilities, so that if it's passed through in text
5 form or when it would be audio and vice versa that there
6 would be a redundancy of the transmission.
7 DR. WARD: Yes. That's obviously a concern. I
8 can say that even in the paging area now there are a
9 number of manufacturers that are working with different
10 communities with disabilities to make sure that a vibrator
11 under the pillow goes off, or there are many technologies.
12 And that's very important.
13 Part of our concern as a Federal committee is to
14 try to make sure that the standards that private industry
15 needs in order to invest the money to do these kinds of
16 things are there. You know, we can say we will have the
17 information available on certain channels. These
18 distribution channels -- for example, digital TV -- agrees
19 to carry the information. And so therefore it's
20 worthwhile for you to develop the products.
21 MR. LaCAMERA: Doctor, in this future world of
22 tailoring messages to units or regions or whatever, the
23 sourcing, is it FEMA and do they have the regional/local
24 resources to tailor messages that way, to focus messages
25 to particular regions within their coverage area?
1 DR. WARD: The primary input at the moment of
2 signals comes from the National Weather Service and from
3 FEMA and from the local county emergency managers. The
4 EAS system allows them to specify a county level and one-
5 ninth county level. But that is in the broadcast mode.
6 What we're talking about now is adding latitude
7 and longitude either as a point or as a polygon to that
8 digital stream that goes out so that a receiver that can
9 know where its latitude and longitude are can do the
10 resolution for space. So what we're talking about is
11 moving brains into the receiver rather than transmitting
12 something over a much broader region.
13 MR. ORNSTEIN: The notion of being able to
14 actually turn your set on and transmit, that would come
15 through a chip inside the receiver, or would it take any
16 more bandwidth to be able to make that happen?
17 DR. WARD: No. The way we would visualize it is
18 that this channel of information is being monitored
19 continuously, even when the set's turned off, although
20 somebody would probably have the option to turn this
21 monitor off also. And that monitor would simply, when
22 something was seen of importance to that individual, turn
23 the set on, if it's not already being used, or interrupt
24 the program.
25 One of the problems with the emergency alert
1 system at the moment is it does interrupt the programming.
2 Even if the digital blip is all that's sent out, that is a
3 sound on the program. So clearly from the broadcasters
4 point of view it has some interference.
5 The nice thing about putting the brains in the
6 receiver is that it will only interrupt the programming of
7 people that are immediately affected.
8 MR. MOONVES: Dr. Ward, let me ask a question.
9 In terms of the larger things that have happened over the
10 last few years, have people missed them? In other words,
11 haven't the broadcasters done a fairly good job already?
12 You know, I live in Southern California, so rain is a big
14 But I think right now it seems like there is
15 quite an alert system that's already in operation on 75
17 DR. WARD: The current emergency alert system is
18 just moving to cable, but it's very active on television
19 and radio and has been working very well. While it's FCC-
20 mandated, the broadcasters play a major role and it's
21 really in many ways more cooperative than simply a
22 mandate. I think they have done an outstanding job.
23 MR. MOONVES: But have they missed anything? In
24 other words, has there been a disaster area where, in
25 other words, if this system was implemented there would
1 have been a much better result than would currently exist?
2 DR. WARD: Well, if you look at the reported use
3 of the emergency alert system around the country, you find
4 certain channels, certain stations have provided many,
5 many, many warnings and other places don't provide any.
6 It definitely gets back to choice of how much, on the one
7 hand, the Weather Service is putting out, and then how
8 much the local station is interested in participating,
9 because they do have a choice at certain levels.
10 But what we're not looking at here is a problem
11 with the way things have been done from, say, the
12 broadcasters point of view. We're looking at the
13 opportunities of what the broadcasters can do. And in the
14 future there's a whole new opportunity here that digital
15 technology provides us and a way to get to just the people
16 we need.
17 As I mentioned earlier, we have this problem
18 that if you keep warning people then it doesn't apply to
19 them. And almost any radio station or television station
20 reaches a lot more people than are usually at risk for the
21 particular event.
22 MR. ORNSTEIN: The Chicken Little phenomenon.
23 MR. CRUZ: One question of interest. There are
24 other major stories in California that are of interest
25 besides rain and earthquakes. Having been through several
1 of them in California and having lived through one in
2 Mexico City that hit 7.1 on the Richter scale, I have a
3 great appreciation for earthquakes.
4 What is it that you can do now? What is the
5 latest status of technology that enables detection? I
6 thought that was still something that wasn't close enough
8 DR. WARD: There's been great advances in the
9 earthquake area, and that is my personal specialty. I was
10 in charge of the earthquake prediction program in the
11 '70s. And we're working now on what we call rapid
13 Rapid notification is right at the moment,
14 within 30 seconds after an earthquake in northern
15 California, you can see the location of that earthquake on
16 the Worldwide Web. Within a few minutes we hope to be
17 able to have a map of anticipated damage, or at least
18 anticipated ground-shaking. That's rapid notification.
19 A more research area is what we call early
20 alert, where we try to detect the earthquake right where
21 it occurs and send out at the speed of light information
22 that the earthquake has occurred and it's about to arrive
23 at your location.
24 Rapid notification turned out to be very
25 important. For example, when a major earthquake occurs,
1 transportation systems usually shut down -- for example a
2 train. The standard policy is to shut the train down. By
3 notifying within tens of seconds what's going on, where
4 the earthquake is, dispatchers can decide that's not
5 likely to affect our track; we'll start the train up
6 again. And in fact we have cases of this with CalTrain in
7 the San Francisco area.
8 It also allows people to prevent secondary
9 damage. We have cases in southern California where the
10 electric utility was able to switch a transformer offline
11 before the surge followed the earthquake and saved many
12 millions of dollars.
13 There are many, many cases like that where the
14 rapid notification that we're doing now can really pay
15 off, and when you start leveraging that across the whole
16 community at risk it's turning out to be very important.
17 But part of our problem is the delivery of that
18 information. Standard paging units take 8 to 10, 15
19 seconds to get it out, because there's a priority list and
20 that's just the way they're managed. So our critical
21 users at the moment, we have either leased lines or some
22 direct way of communicating with.
23 But as this becomes more developed and there are
24 more users, potential users, it's going to be important we
25 find instant channels, ways of getting it out immediately.
1 And, of course, the issue with EAS at the moment is,
2 because it interrupts programming the broadcasters would
3 like to have some control over whether it occurs during a
4 commercial or where in the program.
5 So it's important in that case that it can get
7 MR. CRUZ: Earthquakes don't give you that
8 luxury, though. They blast everything down.
9 MS. STRAUSS: How much information are you
10 anticipating would be sent, transmitted over this. The
11 reason I ask is that currently EBS and EAS oftentimes will
12 transmit only the fact that there is an emergency. But
13 then they will not use those systems to transmit
14 information about where to get help in the emergency.
15 I know this because captioning is required for
16 EAS and EVS, but then it's not necessarily required for
17 all of the local news, so that, for example, deaf people
18 lose out on that.
19 Are you anticipating this being used just for
20 the very fact of the emergency or for additional
21 information on how to obtain help?
22 DR. WARD: Well, I think where we're headed with
23 Internet and Internet-like facilities is going to open a
24 whole new world there. One of the very interesting
25 systems to me that you should be aware of is called EMWIN,
1 the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network. It's
2 actually a transmission by satellite, by NOAA, by the
3 National Weather Service, that it had been operating at
4 1200 baud. You could receive it with a small board added
5 to your PC directly from the satellite.
6 And the software is such that you log onto your
7 PC and search through that information, just as you would
8 on the Web, except it's all located on your computer.
9 In addition, it's rebroadcast. In areas such as
10 this it's rebroadcast in VHF, and for a $5 or $10 module
11 that you plug into your parallel port you can get that
12 same stream of information. This is very important in
13 emergencies when lines can be down and so on, and we see
14 it as a real value of getting that information out there.
15 Now on digital television, with that kind of a
16 baud rate, there's a possibility that that could be added.
17 It's a whole other dimension that we would want to bring
18 in here. EMWIN has recently gone to 9600 baud, but it can
19 be in those kind of rates, and the idea is that the
20 information is being transmitted regularly, but then you
21 go search out what you want within what's there.
22 Now EMWIN is also found on Internet, the same
23 information. And what is being transmitted, by the way,
24 is weather information all over the country, and any alert
25 that's active, be it for all hazards.
1 MR. ORNSTEIN: Okay. Thank you very much, Dr.
2 Ward. That was very useful and helpful for us. We'll
3 break now for lunch and we will come back precisely at
4 1:30 so that we can have our very robust afternoon.
5 (Whereupon, at 12:38 p.m., the meeting recessed,
6 to reconvene at 1:30 p. m. the same day.)