It’s no secret that new types of technology can create problems, but apparently HDTV has created some unforeseen problems with consequences that could be surprisingly far reaching. The problem that HDTV has created is namely the fact that many local TV stations are refusing to let satellite TV companies and cable TV companies use their HDTV signals without paying for them.
According to federal law TV providers can’t use the content from local TV stations without permission. And historically, that permission has been granted to sat casters and cable TV companies in exchange for some pretty nominal fees or for promotional consideration.
HDTV has changed that. Instead of providing HDTV signals in the same way that standard def signals have been provided in the past local TV stations- and in many cases that large companies that own a bunch of TV stations- are now demanding significantly more money in exchange for their content. Some figures estimate that TV stations want up to fifty cents for every household that their content is provided to. While this may not sound like much money, when you multiply it by all of the households that the content is supplied to and figure that several stations in any given market are requesting similar amounts of money, that adds up to a pretty significant sum.
The extra money that the TV stations and the companies that own them want is supposedly justified by the fact that HDTV programming costs more to produce than standard def programming. That’s because of the fact that sets for HDTV need to be built bigger in order to accommodate the wider viewing area of the High Def camera, and HD programming requires new and expensive equipment for the filming and editing of HDTV programming. Even local stations have to make upgrades in order to broadcast their news programs and any other local programs in High Def. Of course the other angle of this request for more money could also be attributed to the growing corporate trend of trying to milk profit whenever and wherever possible.
Of course the cable TV and satellite TV companies are trying to resist this any way that they can. They say that they don’t have the obligation to pay in order to carry the channel for two reasons. First, they never have in the past, and second, that same program content is available over the air for free so why should they- and by extension their subscribers- pay for that same content.
Many industry insiders are crying foul about this whole problem though for several reason. (And these are the farther reaching consequences mentioned earlier.) For one thing, many people are claiming that because the subscription services aren’t providing these channels, the subscribers can’t get their local channels. (This seems like a weak argument because, as already pointed out, those channels are already available over the air for free. Apparently the subscribers in question are too lazy to set up an antenna. And if they can’t receive the signals with an antenna, then it’s debatable whether or not those channels are really local for them anyway!) The other major problem is that there’s a fear that if people can’t get their local channels, then they won’t be satisfied with their HDTV sets and then won’t recommend the sets to their friends. That in turn will slow down sales of the sets and jeopardize the planned conversion to digital TV in 2009.