- DALLAS (CNN) -- High definition television may be the wave of the future.
But a recent incident in Dallas has raised questions about unintended consequences
that could result from new digital television broadcasts.
- When Dallas TV station WFFA turned on
its new HDTV transmitter to test it, the powerful signal overwhelmed low-power
heart monitors at Baylor University Medical Center.
- As a result, nurses were unable to keep
an eye on their patients' heartbeats.
- Station officials say they had no idea
that their broadcast on a previously vacant channel was going to block
Baylor's monitors. When the station discovered the problem, it turned off
- The Federal Communications Commission
has allowed hospitals to use vacant TV channel frequencies for their wireless
medical devices. But last year, the FCC warned hospitals that broadcasters
were about to start using those same channels for HDTV.
- "Because interference could endanger
the health and safety of patients, it is expected that health care facilities
would expend considerable effort to avoid operating on nearby broadcast
channels," the FCC wrote.
- But no organized effort was made to find
out exactly who was using the vacant channels and what potentially dangerous
conflicts might arise.
- And now that HDTV broadcasts are beginning
in some large U.S. cities, hospitals and other users that had been borrowing
the unused frequencies for years will have to come up with other alternatives.
- That could be expensive. Baylor has had
to fork out $200,000 for new transmitters for its heart monitors that operate
on a different frequency.