MSTV on Centris: Bunk


The Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) isn’t buying the claim from Centris that 9.2 million households are going to have reception problems with DTV (4/11/08 TVBR #72). MSTV says the analysis was based on interim DTV coverage areas, not the actual coverage coming next February when many stations move to their permanent facilities and up power. Even so, MSTV used the Centris claims about consumers needing new antennas to note that it would be another reason for lawmakers to nix unlicensed white-area devices.

MSTV President David Donovan took issue with the way Centris conducted its study and said it exaggerated DTV coverage problems:

“First, Centris did not conduct a spectrum analysis nor test signal strengths in the cities listed in the press release.  It used the ‘antennaweb’ database to determine which type of antenna a consumer needs to receive DTV signals.  This database is a ‘snapshot’ of a TV station’s interim DTV channel, power and coverage area.  It does not reflect the coverage areas that most stations will serve in 2009, when they move their permanent channels, increase their power levels, and thereby increase the area that they serve.

Second, Centris assumes that if consumers cannot receive signals with the antenna types selected by Centris, then they cannot receive service at all.  This misses the point.  The issue is whether consumers will be able to receive signals with the same type of antenna they are currently using to receive analog signals.  Of course, this may not be known until stations operate on their permanent digital channels and increase their coverage area in February 2009.

Third, Centris states that this is ‘proprietary’ research.  Apart from a few ‘slides’ presented last February, to the best of our knowledge the actual ‘study’ has never been released.  If this analysis is to be part of the public policy record, the complete study, including the methodology used by its authors, should be published.  Press releases make great headlines, but add little to critical understanding of any potential problems.

Fourth, there is no doubt that some Americans must be reintroduced to antennas as we move into an all-digital world.  Some consumers may need a new antenna.  Nonetheless, consumers should first examine reception capability with their existing antennas once stations have completed the transition.  Consumers should not be misled by ‘proprietary analysis’ asserting that they must purchase antennas that are more expensive or shift to pay cable, satellite or telecom video services.  The digital transition should not become an excuse by some to ‘up sell’ consumers with services and equipment they may not need.”

But, if there is a need for people to have new and better antennas to receive DTV, MSTV has its own spin for Capitol Hill and the FCC. “Finally, if consumers do need more sensitive antennas, we would remind policy makers that these antennas are more susceptible to receiving interference.  Accordingly, reception problems will be exacerbated by placing interfering unlicensed devices in the TV band,” Donovan said.

RBR/TVBR observation: We would note that sensible consumers who don’t plan to subscribe to pay television services will get their digital TVs or digital converter boxes will hook up their new devices and find out what DTV channels they are receiving well before February 17, 2009. If they get the DTV versions of all of the analog stations they have been watching they will be happy – and happier still if they find that there are some new channels that they might enjoy watching. On the other hand, if they’re not getting much, they’re going to do something about it, whether that means an antenna upgrade or switching to a subscription service. People are not going to stop watching television.