JUNE 2002
San Francisco
Roy Trumbull - Editor
Bill Dempster - Artist
Advertisers for this month's newsletter are:

Econco - George Badger - 650-327-7599
Santucci Video Systems - Sandra Santucci - (818) 704-6324
Belden - Steve Lampen - (415) 440-8393
Orban - - (510) 351-3500
MARCOM - Martin Jackson - (408) 768-8668
William F. Ruck, Jr. Broadcast Engineer - (415) 564-1450
Kathrein (Scala Division) - Michael Wm. Bach - (541) 779-6500
Hammett & Edison, Inc. - Dane E. Ericksen, P.E. - (707) 996-5200
LeBLANC - David A. Hill - (650) 574-4600
Improbable Missions Fource - Mike Schweizer - (888) 4-ISDN4U
Digi-Gear/Cancomm - Eric B. Lane - (818) 980-9188
RF Specialties of California - Bill Newbrough - (888) 737-7321
Pacific Radio Electronics - Sam Mao - (510) 636-0308
West Penn Wire/CDT - Michael J. La Porte - (650) 652-9080
Axcera - Russ Erickson - (877) 440-7877

Babes/SBE Luncheon on Wednesday Jun 26th

Our speaker this month will be Dave Christenson from Solid State Logic talking about the utility of shared audio resources.

As usual, our luncheon will be at Sinbad's just south of the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero near the foot of Mission St. We meet at 11:30 and are seated at 12:30. To make reservations call Paul Black at 925-827-9511 and leave a message on his machine.

Note: What follows is a longer version of what appeared in the printed newsletter:

Dish (Echostar) - Direct TV Merger
By Roy Trumbull

June 18, 2002

When mergers take place that require government approval, documents are posted that give a rare view into an otherwise private world. The FCC has a trove of such documents on its web site concerning the DBS merger.

Dish Network has 6 million subscribers and Direct TV has 10.3 million. According to the financial pages, the ripe fruit has already been shaken from the tree. Signing up new subscribers for the merged system will be costly.

The primary sixty one page document with all the signatures is a fine example of how lawyers can observe the formalities and still say nothing. There are many promises but they all lack specifics. The engineering exhibit is a bit more forthcoming.

The mega-headache is that the set top boxes for the two systems aren't compatible. Many of Echostar's birds have low power transponders. The high powered ones most used across the US are at 110 and 119 degrees WL. To get local programming from Dish Network requires an additional dish pointed at either 61.5 or 148 degrees WL. Fewer than 5% of their subscribers have installed a second receive dish.

Direct TV's customers are pointed at 101 degrees WL. A few have a dish that covers both 101 and 119 degrees WL. Even fewer customers are equipped to also receive 110 degrees WL. It appears that Direct TV has more useful transponders that are high power than does Echostar.

The two systems have a programming overlap of 300 channels. Presumably those channels will be freed up for local into local or pay-per-view. It's not enough channels to accommodate all the potential local into local channels.

Both systems are launching spot beam birds that reuse the same frequencies in 5 to 7 ground footprints. That appears to be the preferred method for accomplishing local into local channels. I don't know what the energy budget is to maintain such precise coverage.

National programming will utilize transponders at one orbital location while local and regional programming will come from another. Thus the dual antenna will be the norm for the future.

Based upon my contact with over 6000 viewers back when satellite waivers were required, I found that the average viewer just wanted to get network programming and had no loyalty or interest in local television. It remains to be seen how many DBS customers will install the second dish.

The present capacity for SDTV channels is 500 for Dish and 460 for Direct TV assuming a 10:1 compression ratio. Post merger it is projected that the local stations in at least one metro market in each state will be carried. Up to 12 channels total will be reserved for HDTV.

Both Echostar and Direct TV have offered Internet access but so far less than 1% of their subscribers have opted to use it.

Left out of the news headlines is the fact that Direct TV / Hughes owns 81% of PanAmSat and it will be part of the surviving company.


Presently the only way a viewer in a defined metro market can watch network programming is through his local network affiliate. "Local into local" makes the affiliate available in some local markets via DBS.

A person outside a major market who represents that he can't receive the local affiliate can be granted a waiver to receive a "national" feed of the network. Such feeds come from one of the major cities. Most prized on the west coast are eastern time zone network feeds that push the schedule up by 3 hours.

Many small market affiliates aren't available via local into local and thus must either grant waiver requests or fight a losing battle against their viewers. I believe the rather dubious legal protection provided for the local affiliates under the Satellite Home Viewing Act (SHIVA) as being a pen stroke away from vanishing.

Under the post merger plan, the viewer's will require two dishes to get their networks (local affiliates) and national programming. Since viewers will rebel and write to their congressmen and DBS firms will most likely contribute to their reelection campaigns, I've already cut to the chase and written off local TV via DBS.

One of the major concerns for the future is what happens when the public becomes aware of HDTV? I recall the time at NAB when I was in the HD exhibit area for over an hour and then had to go back to the main hall to meet someone in the Sony booth. The SDTV on the monitors looked awful. Should the public develop a taste for HD, neither cable nor DBS has anywhere near the capacity to carry more that a few HD channels.

Cable pushes what they call digital cable. Digital cable is merely a way to compress from 8 to 12 SDTV signals into the space normally occupied by one uncompressed TV signal. If HD signals were in the 720P format, the most they could put in a one channel space would be two channels. For 1080i they can get only one channel of HD per channel.

As more bandwidth is required for HD, many of the marginal cable-only channels will disappear and there will be a major lobbying effort to permit cable systems to drop over-the-air channels that aren't significantly viewed.

Subscribe to the online version of the newsletter
The electronic copy version of this newsletter is now availible via a mailling list. You can subscribe by going to and filling out the form there.

Webmeister Tim Pozar has the current newsletter plus newsletters all the way back to 1996 at:

I also post the current newsletter at but the posting is without links. - RT

Cal - OSHA
I did contact Cal-OSHA to see what's high on their list of things employers mess up on. Naturally a dead or badly injured employee won't get you a gold star but failing to report what happened in a timely manner is a major no-no. (Standard 342)

The care and feeding of portable fire extinguishers can be a problem (Standard 6151)

Guarding openings in electrical boxes is another as in "How long has that cover plate been leaning against the wall?" (Standard 2340.23)

Do you have a permit to operate that air tank you use to charge up the camera pedestals? I didn't think so. (Standard 461)

In the workplace have you communicated the work hazards to your employees? (Standard 5194) Do you have an injury and illness prevention program? (Standard 3203)