Stronger Signal for NJTV?
The New York company that was given the New Jersey Network by our obese state-traitor has heretofore done a really bad job of getting its materials to New Jerseyans. For months I have been unable to get anything at all at channels 50-1, -2, or -3, which I used to be able to get at least some of the time, over-air. (I don't have cable TV, just cable modem.) In recent days, however, I have been able to get something on 50-1, sometimes. It's not strong enuf to get on all three of the floors of my house where I have a TV and digibox, but I can sometimes get something on one set or another. (Before the transition to digital broadcasting, I also had a small TV in the basement that I could watch while playing pool and waiting to clear the lint trap in the dryer. But I didn't buy a digibox for that set, in part because of expense (the Federal Government offered only two coupons for a discount on digiboxes) and in part because I didn't know if the antenna down there was good enuf to pick up a digital signal.)
Digital broadcasting is a crappy technology that manifestly does not work right. The public was sold a bill of goods when the Federal Government wanted to sell enormous amounts of bandwidth to multibillion-dollar corporations, and everyone was forced to buy a digital converter for each TV set they wanted to watch over-air. We were promised dazzling picture and sound. What they didn't tell us is that many areas of the Nation would be blacked-out, because the signals just wouldn't reach far enuf. So now we have digital in the mathematical sense: two conditions, on and off. You either get great picture and sound, or you get nothing — at best a scrambled picture and no sound, or a black screen.
In any case, let us consider an interplay between Newark's sports facilities and broadcasting. If WNET had not been stolen from Newark by rich New YORKers, high-school football games or at least hilites might be broadcast for Newarkers' own elucidation, by WNET. And major Tristate (or wider) athletic events might be staged at Schools Stadium (a) because the facility, in itself, is wonderful, and (b) because a broadcaster in the Nation's largest TV market might think it worthy, in terms of potential audience, to cover them. That is, tho a WNET located within and faithful to Newark might broadcast events from Newark's own Schools Stadium for the information of Newarkers, any such broadcast could be viewed by people throughout the enormous Tristate Metropolitan Area. Thus, the existence of a wonderful stadium in Newark, in combination with the existence in Newark of a television station that can reach 22 million people, might produce TV-worthy athletic events in Newark. "If you build it, they will come" — if there is a TV station in that market. We've built a remarkable stadium. When do major interscholastic events arrive?
Broadcasters have not increased signal strength, at least not enuf to compensate for the weakness of the digital-broadcasting technology, to produce a brilliant picture with sterling sound from a signal of legacy strength. As things stand, a single passing airplane can knock out even the stronger stations here for as long as two minutes at a time.
Moreover, the owners of broadcast licenses are not living up to their obligations, as for instance to provide an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) at all hours the station is on. On rare occasions, I get the message "EPG Not Found". Other times, I get incomplete or incorrect information. For instance, I might with one button on the remote get a list of several programs over the next several hours, by title and time only, but when I press any entry in that list for a specific program's description, no information appears. Sometimes the entire list is blank. Sometimes a time period, of as much as a few hours, is skipped.
Is it really too much of an imposition upon the holders of these invaluable licenses to "the people's airwaves" to require that they put up a correct and complete EPG? The broadcasters of course MUST know, long in advance, what they're going to broadcast, or they couldn't put it out on the airwaves on time. So what is the problem with telling viewers? An accurate and complete EPG is esp. important in that TVGuide.com does not include all the stations of our region in its grid.
The refusal of broadcasters to live up to their responsibility to broadcast an accurate and complete EPG is a small part of what Newton Minow, among other critics, meant (see my post of January 14th) when he spoke to the obligation of broadcasters to operate their public trust in the "public interest ". That is, over-air broadcast wavelengths are "the people's airwaves". They do not belong to the private broadcasters who are given a temporary and revocable license to use them. Broadcasters are entrusted with those wavelengths, but only if they use them in the public interest. Alas, the FCC allows broadcasters to get away with not living up to their responsibilities. Broadcasters in fact abuse us endlessly. All three of the legacy networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) show infomercials at ridiculous hours, as early as 7pm, not just in the middle of the nite.
In our area, the best use of digital broadcasting is plainly by WPIX, which has three subchannels in English and one in Spanish. PIX manages to provide programming for all these channels, 24 hours a day on at least the English-language stations. (The Spanish programming, "Estrella [which means Star] TV", seemed consistently crappy to me, even given my poor Spanish, so I turned that subchannel off months ago, by deleting it, thru "Channel Edit", from the list of stations that are presented for my consideration by my digibox.)
CBS, by contrast with WPIX, has had only one channel since the inception of digital broadcasting, tho in recent days I have sometimes gotten a blank channel 2-2. The most I have seen there is a large blue-green square bouncing in the middle of a black screen, to the accompaniment of a single musical tone. Does that indicate that CBS is finally going to broadcast on a second subchannel? When? What will that new subchannel show? WCBS can't even program its entire schedule on channel 2-1, without infomercials. How is it going to program a channel 2-2? [Update, 2/2/12: channel 2-2 is now showing a gray rectangle bouncing in a screen filled with thick, vertical bars of many colors, which suggests to me that we are getting very close to the debut of a second WCBS-TV subchannel.]
It's a good idea to rescan a digibox every couple of months, to see if there are new stations. After I drafted the first part of this blogpost, I did rescan, and found a bunch of new channels. There are now four channels 23, two in Spanish and two in Hindi(?). But they are too weak to be clear in my area, and they are not listed in TVGuide.com. The Spanish station WNJU, which started digital broadcasting as only one channel, now has four subchannels, 47-1 thru -4, all in Spanish. Wikipedia says:
WNJU, channel 47, is the flagship station of the Spanish-language Telemundo television network, licensed to Linden, New Jersey and serving the Tri-State area (NY-NJ-CT) television market. WNJU is owned by NBCUniversal, and is one-half of a duopoly with NBC network flagship WNBC-TV (channel 4). WNJU's studios and offices are located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and its transmitter is atop the Empire State Building.There may also be some new, or stronger, channels in the range 60 to 66, mostly in Spanish, Chinese, and Korean.
If the reason I now sometimes get channel 50-1 is that NJTV has boosted its signal a little, then they should boost it even more, so that I and many other people in NJ can receive it clearly, on any floor of their house. Channel 50-2 has, however, vanished. 50-3, which is audio only, still showed up when I rescanned, but it has always seemed to be a mere reading of extended news stories, that come across as being read by volunteers reading for the blind. I thought of doing that many years ago, but am now too busy. Public schools could offer extra credit to high-school students for reading to the blind in audio recordings, radio, and channel 50-3. I participate in online Harris Polls, and one question often asked is if I think that schools should require community service of high-school students. I always answer no, because kids should offer service to others from the heart, not because they are forced to.