Saturday, May 7, 2011

National Broadcasting Network’s Road to Digital Television

The Opening of Government Television
Tracing back the good ol’ days, the Government Television or simply called GTV was born after the Marcos regime. With the word “government”, the channel aims to make the government closer to the people by the means of broadcast media. Then it was being reformatted to People’s Television or PTV. “People”, which symbolizes the whole network, is what now the channel serves to, until it was being reformatted again and now known as the National Broadcasting Network or NBN.

Being the nation’s flagship government network, NBN targets the mass to fulfil the needs of the whole country. From public service to nationwide news, NBN shows how competitive they were, aside from having the three major networks in the limelight. Time by time, Channel 4 is there to broadcast the President’s address to the nation, the Senate’s hearing, Malacañang’s press releases and various administrative programs exclusive for the government network.

At this point in time, the government still holds the ownership of the two sequestered channels back in Martial Law, namely RPN-9 and IBC-13. Both channels were at the peak of their hiatus in the 90’s, with the network’s introduction to Mexicanovelas and various new game show formats. But as the time comes, those two were slowing down from their success because of the emergence of original stories and soap operas being created by the major networks, which they come to being sold into numerous private agencies wanted to own those networks.

Selling the requisitioned TV networks, NBN will have it way in dominance, since the government can now pay attention into one single channel that they own. The President, which now aims NBN to be at par with the world’s leading flagship broadcasters of their countries like BBC of United Kingdom and NHK of Japan, is ready to fund the network’s readiness to conquer the technological advancements they need to be at par with.

In 2009, the National Broadcasting Network showed an infomercial on how they cope up with the current broadcast developments, from engineering to news gathering. NBN backed up its Channel 4 analog TV with a new powerful Harris transmitter and antennas in 60 kilowatts glory. With this, the network can now realize its nationwide reach having mighty power to relay those programs being fed up into the Broadcast Complex. But what’s mightier than backing up its analog frequency was their introduction of the digital television broadcast of the network.

NBN's Harris Analog TV Transmitter
500 watts of power is too small to run the National Broadcasting Network, but in digital terrestrial TV system, the UHF Channel 48 can now extend its coverage up to Suburbs receiving DTV broadcast. NBN is now known as the 2nd TV network to go digital, next to Iglesia ni Cristo-owned GEMNET. With the use of the Philippines’ DTV standard, ISDB-T, the network can now utilize the frequency to transmit digital TV signals on fixed and mobile receivers.

High definition was once used by NBN as it incepts ISDB-T in their broadcast facility. They show some videos in full 1080i HD until such time, the network reverted to multicasted Standard Definition or SD broadcast. The reason why is because the network cannot accomplish to broadcast on full HD since the network’s contents are not in fully high definition. Unlike GEMNET, which is very ready for HD broadcast as they relay those NET 25 programs onto the country’s first high def free TV channel, NBN stood back with the multi-SD in the late 2009. With three SD channels being offered in the digital spectrum, NBN also aimed to insert those RPN and IBC shows in those two remaining digital sub-channels back in 2010. But since those sequestered channels are now being sold to the private owners, NBN operated its digital channel by having a repeater for the other two sub-channels, having NBN on both 3 digital sub-channels in one frequency.

The NBN's most sophisticated Digital
TV Technical Operations Facility
Purchasing powerful equipments in preparation for more advanced broadcast, NBN is ready to switch back in high definition. Their setup was the most sophisticated among broadcasters with digital TV facility because of the compliance with the ISDB-T transmission. They can switch from SD to HD and vice versa, with 1-seg capability for mobile phones with TV tuners. Aside from those, with the equipped DTV facility from Toshiba, one of the world’s leading companies, NBN can now put on the air the Philippines’ Emergency Warning System, a mandatory set by the National Telecommunications Commission on emergency warnings being broadcasted over TV sets. This will also change the television landscape since NBN is required to relay the emergency warnings throughout the digital continuum while watching other network’s programs.

Back in Japan’s megaquake last March, ISDB-T saved lives of many people with the use of the Emergency Warning System. Japanese broadcaster NHK conveyed an emergency warning throughout the whole Japan receiving its digital broadcast which turns out to be an alarm for the people to spread out of the places being affected by the earthquake. After some minutes, NHK relayed another EWS again for the incoming tsunami for people around the North of Japan. Some people were very ready for it, and rapidly evacuated from their areas saving their own lives.

With this, in view of the fact that Philippines is also prone to various natural calamities and disasters throughout a year, ISDB-T will be a good help for us Filipinos, which 70% of the total population watch television. In accordance with numerous government agencies like PAGASA and NDRRMC, the National Broadcasting Network is very ready for a quick splendour of EWS in the digital world.

NBN's Analog TV (left) and Digital TV
with Datacast (right) comparisons
Also a mandatory, NBN has also its datacasting equipments. Datacast, a new and interactive way of watching TV, is somewhat transmission of data with the broadcast signals on digital TV. While watching, you can press the “red button”, which they tag it sometimes, and see some of the highlights of the show, including the breaking news and weather forecasts.

Summing up NBN’s might in digital terrestrial TV competition, the network is almost on the track in serving the Filipino people for good. These technical advancements made by NBN is just the start of their growing years, NBN can prove they can also be in the service of the Filipino.

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