Q: What is DTV?
DTV stands for Digital Television. It is the broadcast standard that will replace the 50-year-old analog transmission system that you see on your television today. The digital transmission system captures images and sounds using a digital code comprised of ones and zeros, just like computers. This revolutionary technology will dramatically improve the quality of our service and enhance what public television already does! Key features of digital television include:
- high definition television (HDTV)
- multicasting in standard definition television (SDTV)
- data transmission
Q: Why should we change to Digital Television?
There are two reasons. First, technology has grown by leaps and bounds since the current broadcasting system was established. Programming sources have increased and digital video technology has advanced, giving us the ability to expand broadcasting capabilities. The current analog system will not support future expansion. Second, we have to change. The Federal Communications Commission has mandated that all television stations convert to the digital system by 2003. It will be a challenge, but one that WSIU Public Broadcasting is embracing because of the opportunities that digital will bring.
Q: Won't it be expensive to convert to Digital?
In short, yes. Conversion to digital requires a whole new technical system because the analog equipment that broadcasters currently use can't support the digital environment. Projected expenses for WSIU/WUSI to make the digital transition amount to over $9 million.
Q: Where will the money come from?
Public television stations must look at numerous funding sources, both private and federal, to make the Digital transition by 2003. We've raised the funds to purchase the transmission equipment which will allow us to broadcast the PBS digital signal, but we will need more funding in order to originate programming and offer multicasting.
Q: What is High Definition Television?
Digital television will allow us to broadcast programs at an extremely higher resolution and clarity than today’s television. This is called high definition television, or HDTV. Viewers will be able to receive crystal clear, sharp images in a wide-screen format with surround-sound quality audio. The visually stunning pictures displayed on the wider screen (16 by 9 aspect ratio vs. the current square box of 3 or 4 aspect ratio) and CD-quality sound of HDTV create a true home theater experience. HDTV requires the entire DTV channel space, so only one program at a time can be transmitted.
Q: What is Multicasting in Standard Definition Television?
When not broadcasting in high definition, digital television allows each station to transmit four or more programs simultaneously. Standard definition television (SDTV) multicasting uses a compression technique that’s only available with a digital system. SDTV offers higher quality images with stereo sound that far exceed the current analog system. Ultimately, multicasting enables us to share more of our wealth of educational and cultural resources with viewers than ever before.
Q: How is data transmitted?
Digital TV, whether it’s HDTV or SDTV, will transform television viewing from a passive to an interactive experience. The digital technology enables broadcasters to use leftover bandwidth to transmit video, audio, text and data directly to computers, fax machines and televisions. Essentially, data transmission gives broadcasters the capability of providing additional information to the viewer….and the viewer the option of acquiring that information. Some kinds of information that may be at your fingertips as a result of data transmission include complete program guides, additional information about a historical documentary, or recipes used in a cooking program.
Q: What does Digital Television mean for Public Television?
HDTV is tailor-made for public television because it will draw out the beauty and detail of PBS’s signature programming genres including performing arts, drama, history, science, nature, travel and explorations. Multicasting in SDTV allows public television to deliver more programming while better serving our culturally, socially and geographically diverse audiences. And data transmission helps us to carry on electronically what we’ve done in mission and spirit for years…it combines the wonderful storytelling power of our visuals with supplemental materials to further educate and inspire our viewers.
Q: Will I be able to get digital television on my old TV set?
Sort of, for now. Until 2006, or until 85% of the market has access to digital signals, broadcasters are required to broadcast both analog and digital signals. A converter box will be available so viewers can tune into the digital channels on their analog TV sets. However, to experience HDTV, you will need a new digital television set. Once 85% of the market can receive digital signals, either through at converter box or a digital TV, the analog signal will go dark.
Q: How much will a digital TV or a converter box cost?
As with any new technology, digital TVs will be pricey at first. Currently, prices are in the low thousands. Converter boxes, or set-top boxes, are expected to cost considerably less. Be cautious when considering a DTV set purchase - many DTV's require an additional tuner/receiver in order to get the digital signals.
Q: Will I have to pay to receive the digital signal?
According to the FCC rules, every station will be required to transmit at least one free stream of programming.
WSIU Public Broadcasting, Carbondale, Illinois 62901-4306, 618-453-4343
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