Dec 19

Written by:
12/19/2006 7:35 AM  RssIcon

I’ve totally destroyed television for you, haven’t I?

That’s what I said to my wife, who after years of living with me, not only spots errors in TV programs that I miss (I have learned the Zen art of enjoying television instead of ripping it apart), but can pick out the exact technical details of what’s bugging her.

I’ve ranted about annoying bugs before. But this time it’s from a viewer:

Why do they do that?

Actually, there are a couple of that’s.

The first that is a logo or promotional bug that covers a lower third so that during an interview, the viewer has no idea who is being interviewed.

Another that is when you’ve got a promotional bug that comes in and out with sound. Sound so loud that it actually masks dialog.

There is one other that: When programs have translated captions and they’re keyed with white letters over bright video...sometimes even white video...with no drop shadow.

I contacted some of the national cable networks that do these things (translated captions excepted as that’s the producer’s/director’s/editor’s handiwork) and asked why.

I never got an answer. I was ignored. The same way that they would have ignored a regular viewer, since I never said I was from the press.

The question this raises, in this age of multiple entertainment choices and lower TV ratings is: How annoyed does a viewer have to get before they change the channel or turn off the TV and watch a program online?

With the holidays here, HDTVs are projected to be one of the hottest selling big-ticket items. People “get” HDTV, although they might not be getting HDTV. To paraphrase the immortal words of Jessica Simpson in those DirecTV commercials, they have no idea what 1080i means, but they want it.

To help folks know that they need HDTV programming to go with their HDTV sets, Costco, the nation’s largest wholesale club operator, has signs next to every HDTV that is on display. But there’s a problem with those signs. Here’s what they say:

You must get HD programming to get an HD picture!

All digital TVs at Costco are displaying High-Definition (HD) content. In order to view the same picture quality at home, you must upgrade to High-Definition programming.

Contact your local cable company or satellite TV provider for details on how to upgrade to High-Definition (HD) programming. [In small print:] Additional equipment and subscription fees may apply.

An HDTV without an HD source is just ordinary TV.

The picture quality of an HDTV without an HD source may be disappointing.

I applaud Costco for helping to make sure that their HDTV customers get HDTV programming. What’s missing is any indication that HDTV owners can get FREE OVER-THE-AIR HDTV...FOR FREE...WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL SUBSCRIPTION FEES (although if the HDTV doesn’t have an ATSC tuner, there would be an additional equipment requirement).

It’s up to the broadcast community to get the word out. How you doin’?

Michael Silbergleid is the editor and associate publisher of Television Broadcast. He can be reached at


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