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FCC Denies Sinclair DTV Petition

The Federal Communications Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition from Sinclair Broadcasting to modify the digital television standard to include the COFDM signal modulation scheme.

Sinclair has for months sought to include COFDM as an alternate or replacement system to the 8-VSB modulation scheme developed by Zenith and adopted in the DTV standard by the Advanced Television Standard Committee.

Among other things, Sinclair claimed COFDM works better in dense urban areas using indoor antennas and in mobile applications. The 8-VSB system was determined by the ATSC to work the best for a wider variety of population areas using outdoor antennas.

Digital television set manufacturers have acknowledged shortcomings in some first generation sets, but add that 8-VSB tuner technology is advancing and improving at a rapid pace, and will ultimately be fixed.

In the denial, the FCC told Sinclair that tests have shown that 8-VSB is an adequate system, and that Sinclair has not offered a valid technical evidence to refute those findings.

In response, Sinclair showed no signs of giving up its crusade.

“Although the Commission dismissed our petition, we welcome their larger interest and intent to investigate all aspects of DTV and its fundamental failure to date,” stated David D. Smith, Sinclair president. “Further, we are hopeful that our continuing efforts to shed light on the relevant DTV issues affecting our industry can now be supported by the industry as a whole. We look forward to participating in this review which the Commission committed to begin within 30 days.”

In its letter of dismissal, the FCC stated it would address “any new issues raised by technological developments, necessary alterations in our rules, or other change necessitated by unforeseen circumstances [including issues related to DTV receiver designs and labeling]” during a comprehensive DTV review. The letter further stated the review would include “all issues related to the digital transition, including the progress being made to improve indoor DTV reception under the existing DTV transmission standard and manufacturers’ efforts to implement DTV receiver design improvements.”