Sunday, December 16, 2007

NewsHour goes HD on Dec. 17th, but will YOUR station show it that way?

This is too important to wait for the monthly recap, so here goes. As many of you know, PBS takes a big step forward by converting their national newscast, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, to HD on Monday, Dec 17th. The press release came out on the 11th, and anticipation has been high ever since. As is their style, the NewsHour ran an extended look at what all of this means for viewers.

So it's a bit alarming that (if you believe the posted schedules of individual PBS stations) a lot of viewers may not get to see the inaugural HD broadcast on their PBS HD channel. This weekend, I checked the schedules of FIFTY Public Television stations. This represents 49 states and the District of Columbia (Delaware seems not to have a PBS station, at least not one in the PBS website schedule database, and I have Arlington, VA's WETA standing in for DC).

Of those 50 stations, 34 run the national (DT2A) "PBS HD Channel" feed (or some rearranged version of it). Of those 34, a total of FIVE have the NewsHour in their HD channel schedules for next week (including, as you'd expect, show producer WETA).

So you're probably thinking "how could this happen"? I think I may know why. According to the comments section (scroll down) of this article the NewsHour feeds will be part of the new DT3A feed instead of the usual DT2A (PBS HD) feed. The following quote seems to indicate that local stations will be able to decide between the DT3A and DT2A feeds:
The launch of DT3A will not have an immediate impact on the DT2A schedule – the PBS HD Channel. However, with the addition of NEWSHOUR feeds and other material on DT3A, it will become important for your station to take into account what feeds are on both DT3A and DT2A to determine your local HD service.
That comment was written back in October, so local stations should have known about this for some time. I'm hoping that what I've reported here is just one large scheduling bug (the schedulers are presumably used to just putting up the DT2A feed as-is) and that the engineers at the various stations are planning to cut in with the other feed, but I fear otherwise. If so, this means that 45 stations (90% of my sample) will be running the NewsHour only on their digital simulcasts, which may not be available to cable viewers (WGBH-DT - our local simulcast in Boston - is not). From what I've gathered, some but certainly not all simulcasts pass on a true HD signal, many others pass only a straight upconvert of the analog signal (again, that's the case with WGBH-DT).

So, if the schedules are right, I am out of luck when it comes to seeing the NewsHour in HD tomorrow, and many of you may be as well. I would be very interested in hearing what your local schedule says, and whether it turns out to have been right.


At 12:44 AM, Anonymous jimBOB said...

I'm in St. Louis. Local PBS station KETC did NOT show an HD version of the NewsHour tonight, much to my disappointment.

Since you can only put one HD signal into a multiplexed digital video stream, I'm guessing if the NewsHour is to appear in HD then the PBS HD channel will either have to simulcast it or go to being non-HD during the time the NewsHour goes out.

I've had a number of email and phone messages into KETC asking what was going on here, with no reply. I did manage to get an engineer on the phone last week, and he said they'd just put up whatever PBS national gives them.

They could have bumped their PBS HD show and dropped the HD NewsHour into that slot (This is what they did when the latest Ken Burns epic showed - it was up in both HD and SD at the same time). They didn't do this. So I guess it was more important to get the umpteenth rebroadcast of a Rudy Maxa travel show than to get the NewsHour in HD this evening.


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