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HDTV Programming News

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Financial news network CNBC is planning to launch a new high-definition service called "CNBC HD+" later this fall. But the network's lawyers are likely going to need a crash course in the applicable truth-in-advertising laws, because CNBC's high-definition plans call for no live high-definition images -- not at launch and apparently not ever.

Instead, the technical boffins at CNBC plan to take its current 4x3 aspect ratio analog broadcast feed and scale it to 1080i. It will then place the upconverted 4x3 image on the left side of the widescreen picture area, with the remainder of the space on the right used to display additional news headlines and financial market graphics.

Although CNBC says it will offer some documentary programming in HD, that's not what viewers expect when they hear CNBC HD+. CNBC should be calling its new service "CNBC Widescreen+" -- and even that's a stretch (pun intended).

I used to consider the technology of television to be amazing -- even magical.

But then I became an HDTV "early adopter" back in 1998, and a decidedly different perspective began to take root. Sure, there were lots of early operational teething pains and the relative lack of programming in the first few years of the transition to HDTV truly tested my patience. But at that point, it was perfectly understandable, because widespread consumer acceptance of digital television and HDTV was anything but a sure thing.

But that was then -- and this is 2007.

Now I wonder if broadcasters have any understanding at all of the opportunity they are fumbling away with their poor handling of the transition to digital television and HDTV.

There are several potential pitfalls that can undermine HD picture quality, but there's little doubt that one of the most annoying -- and unfortunately most common -- problems for full enjoyment of HD programming is cable and satellite subscription services that reduce picture resolution or transmission bandwidth (or both).

It's safe to say that nothing gets visitors to Internet-based home theater forums more agitated, more quickly than a discussion of HD picture quality that has been purposely compromised. And while there's a general recognition that all pay TV services throttle back picture quality to some degree in order to ration precious bandwidth for other purposes, DirecTV has come to be seen as Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to this practice.

But now it appears that DirecTV's HD picture quality may be on the comeback trail, as online reports have surfaced that the company has quietly restored the Discovery HD Theater channel to full 1920 x 1080 quality.

You can read more about these developments at the AVS (Is D* doing some true HD?) and DBS Talk (D* Resolution) sites.

From the official US public launch of digital television in late 1998, few individuals or companies have done more to bring HDTV into the mainstream than Mark Cuban and his HDNet and HDNet Movies channels.

That makes it understandable how one might get a a little overexcited about a recent news report that details the latest capital spending approvals moving across Cuban's desk.