Ms. Diane Rhéaume
Canadian Radio-television and
Dear Ms. Rhéaume:
RE: Comments of Canadian Digital Television (CDTV) on Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002 32 Call for Comments on a Proposed Policy Framework for the Distribution of Digital Television Services.
1. Canadian Digital Television (CDTV) is a not for profit industry association tasked with managing an orderly transition from analogue television to digital standard television (DTV) and digital high definition television (HDTV). In the fall of 1997 The Task Force on the Implementation of Digital Television presented their report and recommendations to the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and Industry Canada. A key recommendation was to establish an industry association to manage the transition, advising government and the CRTC where appropriate and ensure that the transition strategies reflected the full broadcast industry and related stakeholders. The industry responded by establishing CDTV in the fall of 1998. CDTV membership includes over the air (OTA) broadcasters, specialty and premium services, distributors, consumer electronic manufacturers, DTV/HDTV equipment manufacturers, producers and other stakeholders in the DTV transition (membership list appended). Through its committees and Board of Directors, CDTV has provided briefings and education on the new DTV technologies and created opportunities and events for understanding DTV transmission, operational and production issues. A number of publications aimed at educating the industry, the retailer and the consumer about DTV/HDTV have been made widely available. Understanding the business and policy issues associated with the transition has been an ongoing CDTV activity. CDTV has three experimental transmitters; in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. These transmitters are used for public and industry demonstration purposes, as well as providing hands on operating experiences for the industry. CDTV also sits on the Board of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) in the US and monitors and contributes to the various ATSC standards groups. Over the past 4 years CDTV has become the authoritative DTV/HDTV voice in Canada. Given this brief background, CDTV is pleased to provide its response to Public Notice CRTC 2002-32 Call for comments on a proposed policy framework for the distribution of digital television services.
2. CDTV recognizes the positive direction the CRTC proposals take concerning the Digital Television transition for over the air broadcasters. CDTV also notes that the underlying principles behind these proposals are the same as those currently applied to the distribution of analogue over the air services. CDTV applauds the Commission for this positive direction, as it will provide stability for broadcasters in the development of their DTV transition plans and associated business plans. CDTV will comment on the following points.
3. A general concern has been noted by CDTV; there likely will not be enough satellite bandwidth capacity for the distribution of broadcaster HDTV signals to their stations across the country, during the transition where both analogue and digital signals must be carried. The bandwidth requirements could be 4 to 5 times more than the current distribution system for the networks. CDTV has formed a small Task Force to examine the issue and will share the results of this work with the Commission.
Digital Carriage Obligations - the general regulatory framework
4. In paragraphs 10 through 19 the CRTC has enunciated carriage principles that are fundamental to the economics of analogue television and will remain fundamental to the economics of Digital Television. This is well summed up in the Commissions preliminary conclusions (paragraph 19). The must carry of an OTA signal in an analogue world is equally critical to a successful DTV transition and the economics of television in the digital world. CDTV strongly endorses the Commissions preliminary conclusions with an additional three comments.
CDTV recommends that over the air be dropped in the second bullet of paragraph 19. Although the distribution proposals are for over the air broadcasters, the Commission should take note that several analogue pay and specialty services will likely want to migrate to wide screen Standard Digital Television (SDTV) and High Definition Digital Television (HDTV). This is in the interests of both the consumer and the broadcast community. A range of services presenting wide screen standard and high definition product may speed up the transition time and may lead to lower transition costs to the broadcaster and lower set costs to the consumer based on higher volume sales. A recognition and encouragement by the Commission of a wide screen DTV transition framework for analogue pay and specialty services would be extremely useful, subject to negotiated carriage and available bandwidth.
Second, we seek clarification whether station is meant to cover a rebroadcast transmitter. Many originating stations have several rebroadcast transmitters, which they may or may not want to provide a DTV service at the same time as the originating station. CDTV recommends that if the licensing includes rebroadcast transmitters then the broadcaster should have the flexibility to decide when these rebroadcast transmitters would supply DTV services.
Finally in the third bullet of note 19 the phrase reasonable notice is used. It would be extremely useful to understand the factors that will characterize reasonable and put a timeline on reasonable. CDTV recommends a minimum of 90 days and strongly urges broadcasters to give longer notice to the BDU as they develop their DTV transition plans.
Proposed Distribution Policies
5. Paragraph 23 of the proposals notes that for local coverage a stations digital contour encloses an area that includes a minimum of 95% of the households in the BDUs licensed service area. This is certainly the end goal, but in the start up phase of the DTV transition Industry Canada has directed low power transmission of DTV signals, to accommodate frequency adjacency and other interference concerns. This will obviously not fit the criteria noted in Paragraph 23. Even at full power, because of the cliff effect properties of a DTV signal, the current analogue coverage area may not be fully duplicated. CDTV believes the principle should be to guarantee BDU mandatory carriage of a local DTV signal based on the current analogue contour, which Industry Canada has replicated, as best they can given the differing technologies, in their allotment plan. CDTV understands that the CAB is developing a detailed explanation of the contour issue and CDTV agrees with this explanation.
Position of DTV services in a BDUs channel line-up
6. The proposals in paragraph 27 discuss re-modulation of the OTA signal on BDUs before distributing them and the kind of receiver or set-top-box required to receive them. For CDTV the important point to be made is that whatever the technology used for re-modulation and compression, the viewer using a BDU for program services must receive the primary signal and all the data directly associated with this program signal at the full bit rates associated with these components of the originating signal.
7. CDTV agrees with the Commission that Canadian DTV services should be given prominence in the navigation and menu systems of BDUs and recognizes that co-operation between distributors and broadcasters in the creation of these systems will permit a sharing of information among the parties.
CDTV proposes to create a full industry group to review the issues associated with creating these systems and put forward suggestions as to how to develop and implement these systems.
This work will be completed within a 12-month period and the results will be shared with the Commission.
8. Paragraph 31 discusses the shut down of analogue services by a BDU when all or substantially all subscribers are equipped with DTV tuners or DTV set top boxes.
CDTV recommends the Commission clarify what substantially all subscribers means. Setting a clear milestone in a shut down scenario is very important.
A notice of a shutdown of an analogue service by a BDU should be given to the subscribers one year prior to the shutdown. OTA broadcasters should also give the viewer a one-year notice of analogue signal shutdown.
Broadcasters may choose to continue with their analogue over the air signal, even with a BDU shutdown.
Shutdown of analogue services and the DTV transition should be subject to regular review by the Commission, CDTV recommends every two years.
9. Concerning paragraphs 37 and 38 CDTV recommends that the CRTC adopt a strong policy expectation that BDUs will give priority to must carry specialty and premium services with respect to the distribution of HD programming. CDTV recognizes that BDUs must have sufficient capacity to distribute a wide range and variety of services to satisfy the demands of their customers and that programmers must have reasonable certainty with respect to distribution to justify the incremental investments in HD programming. The CRTC should expect that BDUs, in respect of their future HDTV distribution plans, would give priority to Canadian specialty and premium services, provided that such actions do not unreasonably impact on a BDUs competitive position concerning choice and variety of programming services or available bandwidth for present and future services to maintain that competitive position. As to when an over the air service becomes distinct from its analogue version, CDTV recommends that the 14-hour rule could work as a basis for the definition. Canadian broadcasters, under the licensing framework, are allowed 14 hours of HD programming different from the analogue offering. This implies that any programming over 14 hours changes the nature of the analogue and digital versions of the service. This then may be a rationale for application as requested in paragraph 38. Whatever the criteria and rationale the Commission feels is appropriate, CDTV urges the Commission to have a clear and practical definition for these services. CDTV further urges the Commission to give consideration to the practical network distribution issues associated with HDTV programs, distribution capacity and the various time zones across the country. In some time zones HD programming, because of distribution capacity, may be out of sync with its analogue version and this should not be construed as a distinct network.
10. Concerning the proposals on Data services, CDTV is in general agreement on the Commission proposals as noted in paragraph 47. However a precise definition of specifically related program data and non-program data would provide clarity to these proposals. Since program related data is a value-added benefit to viewers of DTV/HDTV services, CDTV urges the Commission to engage the industry on this issue at the earliest possible occasion and put in place clear and precise definitions. Data carriage may also be subject to bandwidth pressure. This is another example of making DTV programming a tangible benefit for the viewer and speeding up the transition period.
11. Concerning paragraph 49 the Commission notes that the CCTA argues that there is no technology available that would allow for the substitution of one HDTV signal over another and that in fact simultaneous substitution should not be required until there is a critical mass of cable subscribers (who) can actually receive an HDTV signal. CDTV notes that there is technology available that could be adapted for simultaneous substitution. For example the Terayon Cherrypicker is already in many cable systems for Standard Digital Television and the HD version is now ready for the market. The technology can add/drop and re-multiplex channels in the MPEG domain. This product can readily replace one digital channel with another and will also protect the overall channel bandwidth so that it does not exceed available channel bandwidth (again all in the MPEG domain). The Cherrypicker technology may be used for HD services other than OTA broadcasters whose services must be carried at the full bit rate received and not be subject to further MPEG compression.
12. CDTV submits that the policy statement in paragraph 61 should reflect the serious issue of bandwidth constraint and the need for BDUs to have a wide range of variety in programming. The policy statement should also provide guidance for the various types of signals carried by the BDUs, i.e. must carry OTA, must carry specialty and premium services and non-mandatory OTA and discretionary services.
CDTV proposes the policy statements read as follows:
A must carry OTA DTV signal distributed by a BDU to its subscribers, should be of the same quality and in the same format as that received by the BDU.
While all BDUs should strongly endorse the principle of putting the best quality HDTV signal on their system, it is recognized that the high bandwidth requirements of HDTV, the BDUs need for a wide variety of programming and the limited capacity available, require that the HDTV quality levels should be negotiated between the BDU and any broadcaster other than the must carry OTA broadcaster.
13. In closing, CDTV generally endorses the proposals for a policy framework for the distribution of digital television services. We trust our contribution to these proposals serve to further enunciate the principles as presented in the Commissions Public Notice 2002-32.
On behalf of Canadian Digital Television Members