1996 - Controversy and Compromise

After Industry Consensus, Controversy Swoops In

Dec 12, 1995 – Just as the Advisory Committee reached consensus to recommend that the FCC adopt the ATSC standard, the FCC holds an En Banc hearing on Digital Television.  Panelists are a "who's who" of the broadcast and consumer electronics industries, including Richard Wiley (ACATS Chairman), Jim McKinney (ATSC Chairman) and Grand Alliance representatives Jim Carnes (Sarnoff) and Bruce Allan (Thomson).  The Grand Alliance demonstrates its system, emphasizing advances in HDTV picture and sound quality along with opportunities for flexible uses of the system.  

    - Announcement of En Banc Hearing and schedule

    - Transcript of the Proceeding

Feb 14, 1996 - The FCC announces that they will hold another en banc hearing on Spectrum Policy. 

 

Feb 17, 1996 - Advisory Committee Chairman Richard Wiley op-ed "I Want My HDTV" appears in the New York Times.

 

March 5, 1996 - The FCC holds its en banc Hearing on Spectrum Policy. Lynn Claudy (NAB), Jonathan Blake (MSTV) and Grand Alliance member Glenn Reitmeier (Sarnoff) are among the panelists.

     Agenda and Transcript   testimony   report

TV Industry Momentum Builds

Early 1996 - Grand Alliance establishes a demonstration center in Washington to inform policy-makers and staff about the benefits of the system and its potential impact on the country   |  video:    https://vimeo.com/283813336

 

April 15, 1996 - Grand Alliance, Westinghouse Communications and CBS demonstrate ATSC broadcasts from KLAS TV station

      _ Grand Alliance Press Releases NAB96

 

May 9, 1996 - The FCC's  Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposed adopting, as the technology for terrestrial broadcast in the United States, the ATSC DTV Standard.  FCC Fifth NPRM news release.

July 11, 1996 – The FCC's Fifth NPRM results in strong TV industry support for the ATSC / Grand Alliance system.

   Grand Alliance NPRM Comments  |  ATSC NPRM Comments

July 23 - 30, 1996 – First high-power ATSC broadcast at WRAL (Raleigh, NC) and first live high-power ATSC broadcast at WHDTV (hosted by NBC's WRC-TV station in Washington, DC).  The HDTV Model Station project with the Grand Alliance prototype hardware serves as an industry test bed for both broadcast equipment and consumer receivers

     press coverage of WRAL    |     WHDTV press release

The Grand Alliance Prototype Harrdare at WHDTV Model Station, hosted at NBC's WRC-TV in Washington, DC

Computer Industry Opposition

July 1996 - In response to the FCC's Fifth NPRM, the Computer Industry Coalition for Advanced Television Service (CICATS) (Microsoft, Apple and others) is formed. CICATS opposes adoption of the ATSC standard and puts forward a paper proposal for "Technical Details of the Proposed Baseline Format of CICATS".  CICATS advocates the exclusive use of progressive scan and square pixel formats (“banning” the traditional interlace and rectangular pixel formats used in television). However, CICATS NPRM Comments also state the position that it would be acceptable for FCC rules not to mandate any video format, leaving the choice to the marketplace.  This would subsequently be a key factor reaching a compromise in November.

 

 Some cinemetographers also oppose the 16:9 format of SMPTE and ATSC standards, wanting a flexible picture aspect ratio.  

 

 

July, 1996 - political influence of computer industry is becoming blatantly obvious and starting to appear in the trade press    |   Broadcast Engineering, July 1996

July 25, 1996 - The FCC's Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  proposes policies for developing the initial DTV allotments and procedures for assigning DTV frequencies to broadcasters.  FCC Sixth NPRM news release.

Broadcast Engineering, July 1996

July, 1996 - political influence of computer industry is becoming blatantly obvious and starting to appear in the trade press    |   Broadcast Engineering, July 1996

July 25, 1996 - The FCC's Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  proposes policies for developing the initial DTV allotments and procedures for assigning DTV frequencies to broadcasters.  FCC Sixth NPRM news release.

 

July 26, 1996 - Microsoft, Apple, Compaq, Intel and their allies form Americans for Better TV and run full-page ads in Washington Post

American Society of Cinematographers • Apple Computer, Inc. Business Software Alliance • Compaq Computer Corporation Digital Theater Systems, LP • Directors Guild of America • Intel Corporation • International Photographers Guild, Local 600, LATSE, AfL-CIO • Media Access Project (endorsement only) • Microsoft Corporation • Panavision International LP • Todd-AO Corporation American^ Homeowners Foundation • Computing Technology Industry Association

 

Aug 12, 1996 - Fifth NPRM Reply Comments criticize CICATS technical merits and non-participation in ACATS process

Grand Alliance Reply Comments and ATSC Reply Comments

Controversy Goes Public

October - Responding to "Americans for Better TV" ads, Grand Alliance members, Broadcasters and TV manufacturers form "Citizens for HDTV".  Peter Fannon, formerly the director of the Advanced Television Test Center, steps up to lead the coalition in support of the Grand Alliance.

 

Oct 28, 1996 - NAB holds a DTV Summit to rally Broadcasters to lobby in support of the FCC adopting the Grand Alliance / ATSC system by year-end.

  Background, Grand Alliance Background |ACATS vs CICATS Comparison

Nov 1, 1996 - FCC holds a Forum on Economic Considerations for Alternative Digital TV Standards.  It is largely attended by economists

Nov 17, 1996 - Taking the technical debate to the epicenter of the computer industry, Glenn Reitmeier presents the Grand Alliance system and debates CICATS at the VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) that sets standards for computer monitors

Negotiation and "Compromise"

Nov 1996 – FCC Commissioner Susan Ness calls on all parties to negotiate and compromise to find a solution.

Nov 1996 – Broadcast, Consumer Electronics, Computer and Cinematographer industry representatives engage in intense discussions.  No technically-feasible and market-acceptable solution is found to meet CICATS demands to mandate only progressive-scan and square pixel formats and 72 fps.   However, Broadcast and Consumer Electronics industries agree to concede to CICATS written position that FCC rules should not mandate any specific video formats, so that  the adoption of DTV formats will be completely market driven

 

Nov 26, 1996 - an agreement is reached.  On Nov 27, the agreement is conveyed in writing to Commissioner Ness and thebFCC issues a Public Notice requesting comments on the agreement.

   Statements from: Chmn Hundt |  Comm Quello | Comm Ness | Comm Chong;  News coverage in the NY Times (Joel Brinkley)

 

Dec 24, 1996 – The FCC approves the ATSC standard, but excludes any requirement for the ATSC video formats from its rules.

                             FCC News Release  |  Statements from:  Comm Ness  |   Comm Chong

                              News coverage:   New York Times  |  other  |  other

FCC Approval - Dec. 24, 1996

Dec 24, 1996 – The FCC approves the ATSC standard, but excludes any requirement for the ATSC video formats from its rules.

         

                         FCC News Release  |  Statements from:  Comm Ness  |   Comm Chong

 

              News coverage:   New York Times  |  Wall St. Journal|  Chicago Tribune  |  WIRED  |