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WSTM/WTVH Debut “Enhanced Widescreen”

SYRACUSE — Anyone who works inside TV knows “enhanced widescreen” isn’t the same thing as true high-definition, but the folks at CNY Central (the trio comprised of WSTM, WTVH and WSTQ-LP) are still hoping their new “enhanced widescreen” newscasts, debuting today, will turn some heads.  Updated 12/14.

The promos running on the air (video) say “enhanced widescreen” because they have to: the stations can’t promote the fact they’re doing local news in HD, because the picture isn’t truly HD.  Rather, it appears the station is simply be flipping the aspect ratio switch on their cameras — from the current 4:3 format to the 16:9 setting.  But it’s not truly a high-definition picture.  The only difference is that viewers who have a widescreen TV will see the picture fill the entire screen — no more black bars on the left and right sides.

Some commenters on the syracuse.com TV/Radio forum were quick to point out how “enhanced widescreen” isn’t really high-definition.  At least one commenter accused the James Street trio of stations of trying to upstage crosstown rival WSYR-TV, which will be doing newscasts in true high-definition sometime in the near future.

Last month, the ABC affiliate announced it would be doing all newscasts from the newsroom while the studio set is rebuilt.  WSYR-TV’s sister station in Rochester, WHAM-TV, has already been doing local news in HD for a few months now. So far, no definite date for HD on channel 9 has been announced.

To explain “enhanced widescreen” another way, compare today’s popular video game consoles. While the latest versions of XBox and PlayStation offer true HD graphics, the Nintendo Wii does not. Although the Wii can produce a widescreen picture, that widescreen picture is offered at the same resolution (480i) you’d see on an analog TV. But, considering many people don’t know the difference (many retailers sell Wii component cables branded as “HD Cables” : example 1 | example 2), we’ll guess most viewers won’t know the difference when they turn on channel 3, 5 or 6 to watch the news today.

Update 12/14: Although the picture on your editor’s flatscreen TV certainly isn’t high-def, we will admit it looks somewhat convincing.  Perhaps it’s the snow-closings ticker (which is high-def as it’s inserted over the programming), or something that might be upconverting the picture (turning to any of the “CNY Central” channels triggers the “1080i” light on the front of the cable box) to make it look more high-def-like.  Broadcasters and the pickiest high-def snobs still know “enhanced widescreen” isn’t truly high-definition, but as we noted in the original article yesterday, the average viewer probably won’t notice the difference.

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