Industry is at fault for HDTV confusion

CBC.ca has a story* about an industry-commissioned survey that shows Canadians don’t quite understand everything about HDTV. Sharp, which commissioned the survey, pulls right out of its ass the theory that “jargon-laden tech reports” are to blame for the problem, especially among women. It’s the media which is not doing a good job explaining HDTV’s technical intricacies to consumers.

While technology articles in newspapers and tech segments on TV news are, indeed, either confusingly jargon-laden or condescendingly over-simplifying, I don’t think they’re the reason for all the misinformation about HDTV.

Instead, I blame the industry itself:

  • An industry that defines “HDTV” as anything above NTSC standard, which could mean a bunch of different formats because the industry couldn’t set a proper standard.
  • An industry that compresses video signals over digital distribution systems to cram more channels in, making some digital signals better than others.
  • An industry that combined HDTV with a change in aspect ratio that served to confuse people into thinking the two were the same.
  • An industry that can’t agree on an optical media format for HDTV.
  • An industry that uses terms like “1080p” which means nothing to people like me, and then tries to develop brand names like “Full HD” which makes even less sense. (Is there a “Partial HD?”)
  • An industry that has developed five different types of cable connectors for video
  • An industry that uses closed, proprietary protocols so that consumers are forcibly tied to cable boxes forced on them by their cable or satellite companies instead of being able to buy televisions with digital tuners built-in.
  • An industry that converts HD to SD to HD, or SD to HD to SD, resulting in black bars all around images once they’re actually shown on TV screens.

But I don’t expect Sharp to bring that up when they’re busy masturbating over how great they are.

Another example of investigative journalism

*Dear CBC: If you’re going to rewrite a press release, maybe you should make it slightly less obvious that you’re doing so. For example, you could change the headline. Or you could find another source to quote. Or you could not copy and paste half the press release into your article.

For example:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly healthy market for flat panel TVs. Overall, the market grew by 72 percent last year, with sales of LCD TVs growing by 84.4 percent. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.
The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat screen technologies – 53 percent prefer LCD to plasma screens – yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.
Women are especially unaware of HDTV features; almost 60 percent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 percent of men polled across the country. The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 percent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 percent from print media and 16 percent from weblogs and product websites.

That was from the press release.

This is from the CBC story:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly robust market for flatpanel TVs, according to the findings from Nanos Research, commissioned to do the survey by Sharp Electronics of Canada.

Overall, the market grew by 72 per cent last year, with sales of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs growing by 84.4 per cent, Sharp said. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.

The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat-screen technologies — 53 per cent prefer LCD to plasma screens — yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.

Women are especially unaware of HDTV features, the survey suggested. Almost 60 per cent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 per cent of men polled across the country.

The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 per cent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 per cent from print media and 16 per cent from weblogs and product websites.

Notice some similarity? (I’ve bolded all the changes the CBC made.) I’m just going to go ahead and assume the CBC did not, in fact, check to make sure these statements were true.

(And another thing: “weblogs”? If people don’t understand what a blog is, what makes you think they’ll understand “weblogs”?)

5 thoughts on “Industry is at fault for HDTV confusion

  1. Tim

    In all fairness, I think we’re talking about a number of industries, including television manufacturing, broadcasters, distributors and media production (studios). Mind, in today’s world of conglomeration, some multinationals span some or all of these industries (Sony? GE?).

    I would shift some of the blame on government for its lack of leadership. The U.S. Congress mandated the FCC to see the industry shift to digital to free up some bandwidth over the air ten years ago, but it didn’t ensure a smooth transition. Now, one year before the cut-over it’s only now taking action for those consumers (most) who are unprepared. Congress also mandated the FCC to implement a standard box-free digital implementation, but ten years later its CableCard is poorly implemented and no longer meets today’s market’s needs.

    The Canadian Government has fared even worse. The least they could have done was follow the U.S.’s direction. Now we find ourselves with no action plan for cablecards and no cut-over plan for over-the-air digital.

    P.S.: You forgot to emphasize the em dashes the CBC put in… =P
    P.P.S.: Check out the FCC’s DTV information site. Its interface and design give me a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling, like navigating the Internet back in 1997.

    Reply
  2. Blork

    Actually, there is such a thing as “partial HD,” although nobody calls it that. “Full HD” means HD across all aspects of that separates HD from regular old fashioned TV:

    – LINES OF RESOLUTION. “Full HD” goes all the way to 1080 horizontal lines, versus 720 lines, which is more HD than regular TV, but not “full” HD. Until about a year ago, most plasma and LCD TVs on the market (even the 42″ ones) had a screen resolution of 1366 x 768. That’s only 768 lines tall. As such, their “native” HD resolution was 720. The TVs that you now see “coming down in price” are largely the old stock of those ones. In the past year or so, plasma and LCDs have been boosted to 1920 x 1080, which is a huge leap in resolution, as they are 1080 lines tall. That’s where “Full HD” comes in, as the “Full HD” signal is 1920 x 1080.

    – PROGRESSIVE SCANNING. The “p” in 1080p stands for “progressive scanning.” In simple terms, that means the TV displays all 1080 lines in one swoop, then repeats over and over. This is a big improvement over “interlaced” which means the TV scans every second line, then scans a second time to get the lines it missed the first time. Repeat, etc. Interlaced tends to have more visible flicker and is not as clear because of that. So a 1080i TV is not “full HD” because it is interlacing the image.

    Bascially, that means the evolution has been 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p.

    But even with a Full HD, 1080p TV, you won’t always get the Full HD image. Videotron doesn’t go any higher than 1080i, for example, and a lot of shows on Videotron HD are in 720p.

    But if you plug in a Blu-ray disk on a Blu-ray player, you get the full 1080p, but ONLY if your TV is Full HD.

    There you go. Easy! ;-)

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  3. Blork

    Just to clarify, you can still watch those “less than full HD” Videotron shows on a Full HD TV, and you can watch a 1080p Blu-ray on a “not quite Full HD” TV. But in both cases, it doesn’t look as great as it would if the signal and the TV match.

    That’s the key; matching the signal to the TV.

    For example, if all you ever did was watch TV with a 720p signal, you would arguable get a better image from a 1366 x 768 TV, because the signal and TV would match. But then it would look not so good when you’re getting a better signal, and who wants that?

    It’s not unlike the way that your LCD computer monitor has a “native resolution.” If you set it to display at a different resolution, you can still see it, but it’s not as sharp. Ditto mismatching signal and TV. But since there are so many signal types, all you can do is decide which you want to match. For most people, the answer is to match to the highest quality signal, as that’s the direction in which most signals are going.

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