According to a report by Associated Press, the major networks want Congress to prohibit cable systems from “downconverting” their HDTV programming signals. This means taking high-definition digital signals and converting it to standard definition digital signals. They don’t mind conversion to analog standard definition, in order to maintain service for those customers. Lowering the resolution for digital signals, however, means that HDTV owners may not get the full resolution that their sets can display.
This will not be the last that we hear about content producers being concerned about who is doing what to their signals as they get distributed. There is a lot of pressure on both cable and satellite services to reduce the amount of data in their signals so that they can fit more channels in the available bandwidth. Another story that we don’t hear enough about is how these services compress the signals — both standard and high definition — so much that the image quality is degraded. As competition grows from various wired and wireless broadband services, cable and satellite may be at a disadvantage trying to sell degraded image quality on their programming, so market pressures alone may resolve this issue.