Have you ever noticed that sometimes the program guide on your digital television doesn't always match what is actually on the air?
If you are a Tivo or DVR owner, you may have seen a guide description that says "DTV Programming" without any information as to that programming was. Or worse, you may have scheduled a recording of one show, but it recorded something entirely different.
The reason this happens has to do with the electronic program guide on the digital television signal. If a change has to be made to the schedule for any reason, the guide doesn't reflect the change.
A new rule by the FCC hopes to correct this problem so that people can record their programs they way they expect them to.
I noticed this problem quite a lot with programming that followed a live sporting event. For example, sometimes, (quite a lot, actually) the NFL game that was on before The Amazing Race would run long and the show wouldn't actually start on time - sometimes the start would begin up to 30 minutes after it was scheduled, which meant that I had to fast forward through something I didn't want to watch, just to get to the start of the program. Only to find out that the recording would end long before the program hand finished. Tivo users try to get around that by setting up recording options where the show could start on time, but have the end time moved to several minutes past its scheduled end time. Even then, it's a gamble to see if you managed to record the entire episode.
The reason why this happens is because broadcasters like DIRECTV get the information for their electronic program guide (EPG - in TV speak) from services like Tribune Media Services, which provide not only the title, description of the show and scheduled time of the program, but also "meta data" such as V-chip ratings. This information is sent to the content distributor sometimes a week or more in advance. The data is then combined with the broadcast video and sent over the fiber (or cable, satellite, whatever) to the home. If the network decides to change its programming - such as when a football game runs long or when a particular episode of a program has to be removed from the schedule because an operator spills his Mountain Dew on the tape an hour before its supposed to air (just an example, not taken from actual experience or anything) the result is that there is no way to change the program information in the guide.
A new rule by the FCC, created as part of its "Program and System Information Protocol" that was incorporated into the requirements for broadcasters last year informs broadcasters that should there be any change to a program's scheduled time, the EPG must be changed to reflect it. This new rule is set to go into effect in May.
Under the new rule, all information used to generate the DTV EPG will have to be combined together to allow updated information to be sent out at the time the program airs.
This should make it easier for Tivo and other DVR users to catch their shows but it just made the broadcasters jobs a lot harder.