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ATSC Task Force To Review DTV Standard

The heated multi-industry debate over use of the 8-VSB or COFDM modulation schemes in the U.S. Digital Television (DTV) standard may not be dead after all.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) said it has decided to form a task force to examine technical issues related to DTV RF system performance.

According to a notice distributed to ATSC members, participation on the task force is open to any individual or company with a stake in the RF modulation standard. The mission of the panel is the issue of modulation standards.

The ATSC specification currently embraces the 8-VSB-modulation scheme that was originally devised by Zenith. However, group of broadcasters led by Sinclair Broadcasting of Baltimore has aggressively sought to have the COFDM modulation scheme used in Europe added to the standard. Sinclair and its supporters argue that 8-VSB is inferior to COFDM for reception in urban and mobile applications.

Mark Richer, new ATSC executive director, will chair the committee, which was to hold its first open meeting last Friday.

Sinclair and a number of other broadcasters last year petitioned the FCC to have the COFDM modulation scheme added to the U.S. DTV standard. This would provide broadcasters the option of choosing the scheme they wish to use and would require DTV set manufacturers to produce DTV tuners capable of receiving both transmission types.

In February, the FCC denied the petition. Despite the belief by 8-VSB proponents that the debate was over, other organizations — including the Association for Maximum Service Television and various groups of broadcasters — have been working behind the scenes to continue researching the issue.

The task force is expected to take six months to review the DTV standard and will issue its recommendations to the ATSC executive committee.

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