France and West Germany star in high-definition drama

日期:2019-02-26 10:13:05 作者:疏粟 阅读:

By DEBORA MACKENZIE in BRUSSELS STRIFE in Europe over the future of high-definition television (HDTV) was narrowly averted last week by French President Francois Mitterrand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The two agreed that West Germany would continue to broadcast from its national TV satellite using the new European standard, D2-MAC. The issue was as much a question of whether a unified Germany will be loyal to Europe, as of Europe’s chances of having its HDTV standard accepted as the world norm later this month. The quarrel concerned a channel on the German direct-broadcast television satellite, TV-Sat 2. ARD and ZDF, two of West Germany’s three public television networks, let it be known this month that they wanted the channel to broadcast on the PAL standard, now used in East and West Germany. In 1986, however, the European Community and the European Broadcasting Union agreed that European TV satellites should in future broadcast only on the MAC standard, the first stage of Europe’s norms for HDTV (‘Europe misses the picture’, New Scientist, 3 February). France and Germany opted for a variant called D2-MAC, whose narrower bandwidth allows it easy access to TV cables. Britain, with fewer cables, uses a variant called D-MAC. TV-Sat 2 can use either MAC or PAL. The agreement was part of Europe’s effort to promote MAC, in the hope that it, and not MUSE, the Japanese proposal, will be adopted as the world HDTV standard when the International Radio Consultative Committee meets in Dusseldorf later this month. European manufacturers say the Japanese will dominate the market for televisions, the chips inside them, and the equipment to broadcast on them, if MUSE is chosen. The European standard was developed as part of the Eureka programme for European collaboration in industrial research. Philips of the Netherlands, Nokia of Finland, and Thomson of France, formed a European Economic Interest Group last year to develop HDTV. They issued a statement last week claiming that jobs in the European electronics industry would be jeopardised if West Germany weakened Europe’s case for its standard by broadcasting in PAL. The European approach, unlike the Japanese, is to introduce high definition in two phases. The first standard, D2-MAC, can be picked up on existing television sets. But the improved picture, stereo sound and wide-screen image, however, can only be seen on specially equipped sets. The full improvement is to be introduced later, through a standard called HD-MAC. Even then the improvement is hard to detect on screens measuring less than a metre diagonally. A television that can receive both MAC standards will cost at least Pounds sterling 3000. This high cost is the rub for the West Germans, who have just acquired 20 million impoverished but eager East German viewers. They could build more rebroadcast stations to reach this area, but it would be much cheaper simply to beam signals into East Germany from TV-Sat 2. The German networks suggested this month that the channel destined for D2-MAC be used instead for an updated version of the German PAL standard, PAL-Plus. This provides an improved picture without requiring an expensive new set. The German networks have other reasons to dislike D2-MAC. With the marginal improvement it offers in picture quality on average sets, its remaining advantage is stereo sound. PAL already offers this, though the French standard, SECAM, does not. The French support D2-MAC. Japan’s MUSE offers full high-definition in one step, but is being targeted not to the consumer market, but to industry, for uses ranging from promotion to monitors for computer-assisted design. Japanese companies already market an enhanced version of the ordinary Japanese standard, a similar approach to PAL-Plus,