MCM & the HD Transition
Do you own a High Definition television? If you’re like the majority of Montgomery County residents, you do… and perhaps more than one HD set. HD is the standard now, and once you’ve seen those amazing images, it’s hard to go back to standard definition. And like most cable subscribers, you spend most of your TV time bouncing around channels in the ‘HD tier’. Who wants to watch upcoverted, non-HD programming on that big, expensive set?
Back in the late 1990s, I was hired by PBS to help them convert from analog to digital. I worked on the programming side (the channels) while others handled the technology, so I worked with the PBS stations on what sort of channels they wanted PBS to build. While we put together several multicast channels, the focus soon shifted largely to High Definition programming… that’s what the consumer wanted. Today, PBS has a wonderful array of nature, history, science, news and even children’s programming in HD… as does everyone else in the commercial TV world.
But MCM is lagging behind. Why? Well, part of it is because of money. Converting an entire media facility to HD is not cheap. So far, MCM has HD field cameras and editing equipment, and this summer we’re converting part of our Master Control (which basically operates our channels) and Studio B (which is used largely by our community producers) to HD. So we’re getting there, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to watch MCM in high definition anytime soon. The big piece that’s still lacking is convincing the cable operators, Comcast, Verizon & RCN, to carry MCM as part of their HD offerings to you. We could put out a beautiful HD signal, but until the cable ops put it on their services, you’ll never see it.
Over the next twelve months, Montgomery County will be renegotiating the franchise agreement with Comcast, which basically allows Comcast to operate their cable TV service locally. An important part of that negotiation should be the carriage of MCM (and the other local education and government channels) as part of Comcast’s HD tier. Focus groups made up of county residents said they would like us to be in HD, and we hope Comcast will hear that message. If you’re a Comcast subscriber, let them know you want MCM in HD.
The digital transition to HD occurred long ago with public TV and commercial broadcasters. It’s time your local channels receive the same treatment, because HD is what the customers demand. Let your voice be heard.