Digital television

South Australia is slowly moving towards digital television broadcasting, with the current analogue system slated to be turned off in the not-too-distant future, but currently broadcasting simultaneously with the digital system (for the same stations).

Having looked at digital television reception in a few store's showrooms, I can't see that there's any tangible improvement.

Picture quality

The signal quality isn't noticably better, nor will it ever be, until the really crap video performance of most TV sets is improved.  Most of the sets have a really poor signal-to-noise ratio, and extremely poor video bandwidth, often trying to fake sharper pictures by over-peaking the high end of the video signal, as well as lousy tube focus.  Getting away from CRT technology, we have similar poor video-bandwith performance in LCD and Plasma sets.

You can see the over-peaking as the “ringing,” or extra outlines, around anything with a sharp edge to it.  Any object with fine detail becomes messy, and very contrasty objects get a line drawn around them (you'll often see this when ceiling lights come into a shot; they'll have a dark black line drawn around them, where there shouldn't be).

Aspect ratios

Then there's the issue about normal or widescreen:  Much of our popular television programs are old, and weren't shot with widescreen in mind.  Some stations have taken to the idea of faking everything as being widescreen, so you get parts of the picture sliced off to fill the screen.  This gets worse if you don't have a widescreen set, as you'll get even more of the picture sliced off.

Jobs and local content

Adelaide suffers quite badly thanks to the networking of the stations.  For a long time, we've been little more than a relay station for the Sydney or Melbourne stations, with a small amount of local production, but now that's going to diminish even further.  It costs a lot of money to replace all your production equipment, and the networks are taking the stand that it's easier to just upgrade their main base, and gut all the other stations equipment.  We're now faced with the ludicrous position of having local news read out by talking heads sitting in front of cameras in Adelaide, with the signals going interstate for control and tape playback, then coming back to us for broadcasting (essentially faking a local news broadcast).  This is to save them money on equipment and staff.

I heard an interesting comment about this sort of thing:  Our local stations are licensed as “local stations,” to provide local broadcasting.  They're not network licenses.


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