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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

I've drafted a little letter I've been planning to send to the CRTC with a proposed idea that might expedite DTV OTA for all of us, though I've used Ottawa as the example. What do you think? Is this a feasible idea? I would appreciate input on the matter.

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In 2011 all local analog television broadcasters will be required to transition to exclusively digital. This proposal offers a low cost alternative for all local broadcasters to expedite the availability of DTV (digital television) programming while testing this new format to assist them to be better prepared for the eventual mandatory transition. By forming an alliance of these local broadcasters they can share in the minimal costs of providing their programming digitally as opposed to having to bear the full financial burden individually, though the solution provided should result in relatively negligible additional costs. Their current broadcast feeds may be supplied unaltered for the digital broadcast so little if any infrastructure changes would be required, especially considering that their data feeds are already being supplied to the broadcasting towers.

Digital broadcasts are capable of having multiple subchannels on the same television/radio channel frequency, with relatively negligible additional costs. A single digital broadcast channel may contain up to five (5) separate subchannels (480i SD ~3.8 Mbit/s each) which are comparable to the existing analog broadcasts, except that digital reception is crystal clear as contrasted to the poor reception of analog (snow & ghost distortions).

Two currently unutilized UHF channels allocated for the Ottawa region may be temporarily used for this purpose. The capabilities of digital broadcasting allows the subchannel to be displayed as a virtual channel, thus appearing to be a subchannel of the broadcaster's original analog channel. For example CJOH currently broadcasting on analog channel 13 would have their digital virtual channel appear as 13.1, and the same would be true for all the other broadcasters involved in the temporary alliance, thus preserving their channel number brand.

This proposal represents a significant cost, power and bandwidth savings for the broadcasters in comparison to the cost of operating individual digital stations to accommodate the current local programming. This proposition will assist in the transition to DTV due by 2011 for Canada, expedite the availability of DTV for the population ready & eagerly waiting for it, and provide a better viewing experience for the population who mainly receive such quality programming exclusively OTA (over-the-air). It is proposed that this be implemented relatively immediately, and that this temporary alliance be terminated in 2011 at the time that each broadcaster is expected to have their own digital broadcasts.

There are two main broadcasting towers in the Ottawa region currently broadcasting analog and digital signals; Camp Fortune, and Herbert's Corners. Perhaps the simplest implementation would be to allocate a UHF channel to each tower and encourage them to digitally broadcast the channels they are currently broadcasting in analog. Thus this would mean hardly any infrastructure changes, barely any additional costs to implement, and might actually result in a significant cost savings! Therefor Herbert's Corners would broadcast as digital subchannels the following channels that they are currently broadcasting in analog: 11, 32, 43, 65 (note that is just 4 channels). Camp Fortune would broadcast as digital subchannels the following channels that they are currently broadcasting in analog: 6, 13, 24, 30, 34, 40 (since there are 6 channels one would have to be dropped, the one with the lowest statistical audience, or alternatively one of them may be moved to the other broadcast tower). Again, this would be a very simple solution to implement that would have negligible infrastructure changes or costs, and benefit both corporate and consumers. CBC, SRC, Sun & OMNI1/2 have been disregarded from this proposal as they are either currently broadcasting digitally, or will be soon, and we are grateful to them for being leaders in this field. There is no reason why this viable plan could not be rapidly implemented early in 2009, and in fact it should be.

We request that the CRTC expedite approval of such a temporary broadcasting alliance, rapidly authorizing two allocated UHF channels for this purpose, and that the individual broadcasters cooperate in such an alliance despite being competitors. This would represent a major step forward towards the implementation of the DTV OTA standards, rapidly following the American transition, and would be of benefit to the OTA consumers as well as the corporations trying to remain competitive. All local analog broadcasts will thus also be available digitally.

Though it is expected that the local broadcasters change over to regular digital broadcasting on their own frequencies, probably in full HD format, by 2011 terminating this temporarily alliance, this could also provide a lower cost solution beyond 2011 for broadcasters unable to complete transition due to financial or other reasons by the deadline. Therefor such channels will not be forced off air if they are unable to comply with the transition, and may be granted a temporary extension if so needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
A second idea that I thought of writing the CRTC is to consider such a temp solution for all broadcast towers in Canada, requiring each tower to broadcast the top 5 (most popular) analogue channels (that don't have a DTV parallel yet) in the manner suggested in the first post.
 

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I do agree with channel sharing.

Personally, I think that all CBC stations should be merged with CBC french.
Plus, in Ontario you can easily add TvO.

Now, i think in "smaller markets" like Sudbury you can have 2 frequencies, where they each have like 4 Digital OTA channels.

The real issue would be in sharing costs.
If there an aggreement with say CBC, CTV & GTV.
GTV & CTV may feel they shouldnt have to pay any thing as CBC gets tons of funding from the feds.

Second idea, i completely disagree with. You need to rethink what your asking in that second question.

Read ya L8r,
Al

PS, there can be a LD info channel. Showing what shows would be on for the evening. Plus, I like the idea of timeshifting an SD to go along with HD channel.
 

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BTW, I dont need to think this needs to be a temporary alliance. But in sum cases it can be a permemant solution. Like smaller markets.
 

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6 SD channels on one channel is overkill. Unless you think Youtube-quality like television is high quality, it's just not worth it. Four is the maximum number of non-static image channels where SD can still look like normal SD.

Here's an idea regarding rural Ontario.

The CBC would share their subchannels with TVO and a local community station like CHEX-2 or CFTV. The community station will have to pay a yearly fee of 15% of the electric bill for the transmitter for a year.

X.1 CBC
X.2 TVO
X.3 Community station
X.4 SRC

CTV would have 'A' and Citytv and SunTV share a single channel.

X.1 CTV
X.2 'A'
X.3 Citytv
X.4 CKXT

Global would have E!, the OMNI's share a single channel.

X.1 CIII
X.2 CHCH
X.3 CFMT
X.4 CJMT

Major cities like Toronto or Ottawa will have single channel with NO subchannels. Medium sized cities like London, Kitchener, or Windsor can have two subchannels on a single channel. Smaller cities like Kingston, Peterborough, Thunder Bay and Sudbury can have three subchannels. Rural areas can have four to five subchannels on a single channel.

In rural BC, something like this may be plausible.

X.1 CHAN
X.2 CBUT
X.3 CIVT
X.4 E!

X.1 CKVU
X.2 CIVI
X.3 CBUFT
X.4 CHNM
X.5 CHNU
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Emerald Boar,
Initially I thought that too, that CBC could share subchannels, especially (in Ontario) with TVO. However upon research I discovered that both CBC channels (eng & fre) are the highest quality HDTV, utilizing the full channel bandwidth, and thus meaning that you can't have any subchannels on the CBC DT channels.

In my research, I could be wrong, you could have 5 equal channels that are the same resolution as current analog broadcasts (SD).

I like the idea of a TV guide like channel someone suggested, however I think it is a bad idea. For one it is a waste of a subchannel that could be put to better use, such as broadcasting some station. Second, the EPG (electronic program guide) is broadcast with each channel, thus one could easily digitally check to see what programs will be coming up later.

Yes, I do think that this could be a viable solution to service "smaller markets". For the price of broadcasting one channel signal the local population could enjoy 5 crystal clear DT shows. If the CRTC were to fast track this I'd suspect that it would make many many many people very happy across Canada... except perhaps for the satelite & cable executives. Personally I am surprised that this solution hasn't been considered (to my knowledge) by the CRTC yet.
 

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Great minds think alike :p In posting http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?p=889404#post889404 I mentioned that I've already done something similar.

But don't throw away your work yet. Take a look at the CRTC hearing due to begin April 27 http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2009/2009-113.htm One of the items to be considered is...
consideration of the terms for the digital transition by August 2011, in light of an industry working group report being prepared for the current public process.
That would be an excellent place present your idea. My original note to the CRTC was a quickie. I was intending to do a longer write-up for a submission, but it might be easier to incorporate my points in your submission. The CRTC accepts submissions via the web. And no, you do not have to appear at the hearings. I'll post an update here to your draft tonight. The deadline for submissions is March 30th, so we have a few days to polish the submisssion

My re-working of your letter will be generalized to apply to small-market locations anywhere in Canada versus your letter, which is Ottawa-specific. Also, it is intended to be more permanent than your idea.
 

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This channel sharing idea is good idea in principle, but it may turn out to be too economical for many cash-strapped local broadcasters. There would be less incentive to provide an HD signal on their own channel at the 2011 transition. They may request the CRTC or Industry Canada to exempt them from having to implement an HD channel at all. Thus viewers in smaller markets may never get to see true HD OTA.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Two replies follow...


@ LegLamp,
Yeah, I thought of that too, that if broadcasters were to embrace such a strategy that long term it might give them the incentive to keep doing it the cheaper method. It is a mixed bag - do we want short term gratification, or long term have things done better. If the CRTC were to approve of this idea then in the short term we would have much faster conversion to DTV, improving picture quality for many of us currently on OTA exclusively. I suspect that with the current financial struggles of broadcasters some might not even make the 2011 deadline for conversion otherwise, HD or lower SD. Maybe this idea is still worth pursuing, with strongly worded emphasis that by the deadline that this TEMPORARY alliance must be dismantled in the mid to large markets.

@ Walter Dnes,
Yeah, let's put our heads together to draft up a nice document to submit to the CRTC. Like you said we don't have much time, so let's get cracking on it. I thought of offering you my phone number to discuss this via phone, however I think it might be better to work visibly here in this thread so that others may see the progress and even offer their two cents of input. Perhaps we could make a really nice document here, and rather than just one of us submitting it we could both submit it, or even others too, so that the CRTC sees that there is interest in this topic.
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On another topic, consider something suggested by Walter Dnes at the link he gave above, I have a small idea that I am curious to see what the response of people would be...

In many places CBC currently has two channels, the english and the french. Both are full HD, taking up full channel bandwidth currently. As a TEMPORARY solution, how would people feel if CBC amalgamated both their english & french on one channel, so both are still technically HD, though a lower quality (negligibly lower - barely noticable), and then use the other channel that gets freed up to provide a lineup like CTV, A Channel, Global, TVO, and another one.

Would you be willing to have CBC slightly lower quality until 2011 if that means that you get 5 extra channels that you probably won't get until then anyways?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Another variation to the CBC debate.

First check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_subchannel to see how many subchannels you can have with various quality configurations.

What if the English & French CBC broadcasts remain on their current channels, but rather than broadcasting them at 19Mb/second have them cut down to 11Mb/second and have two SD subchannels under each channel. This would allow 4 extra broadcasts to piggy back upon the existing CBC transmissions with negligible decrease in the CBC broadcast qualities, and hardly any cost or technical difficulties to implement.

In ontario TVO would be an obvious choice for a piggyback since it is also a government (provincial) sponsored station. The other three spots could be auction/bidded upon by the other broadcasters, thus the CBC might even make a profit from this, and also this would prevent the CBC from getting any kind of bad rap from appearing to offer favouritism to any of the other stations... the subchannel goes to the highest bidders.
 

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how would people feel if CBC amalgamated both their english & french on one channel, so both are still technically HD, though a lower quality (negligibly lower - barely noticable), and then use the other channel that gets freed up to provide a lineup like CTV, A Channel, Global, TVO, and another one.
Why would/should CBC subsidize CTV? Let 'em buy their own space. Maybe they could sell back the rights to the HNIC theme :rolleyes:

OK, maybe TVO, but not any other privately owned/funded station.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
@ Techluvr,
Seeing the timestamp of your post, and my post just a few minutes earlier, perhaps you didn't see the last thing I said. You're right, CBC shouldn't subsidize the private networks, but I am suggesting that they auction of the subchannels to the highest bidder (however offering TVO for free or @ cost as a special case). CBC could even potentially profit from it, and everyone wins.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One more DIFFERENT idea...

In many of the larger markets there are already some independent/private stations that have set up DTV and are currently broadcasting (or will be soon). What if the CRTC were to allow them to sell subchannels to the other broadcasters, giving a TEMPORARY allowance to do this until 2011. The networks that have already taken the initiative to set up DTV broadcasting can thus be rewarded (financially) by allowing the slow-pokes to catch up via piggyback. If the CRTC allows this then we all win - we have more channels, the leaders get financial compensation, and the others get a low cost way to jump on the bandwagon.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Yet another completely different idea...

This is for the tiny markets... what if the existing broadcast towers were to implement even just one digital channel (lowest cost for those that are poor). According to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_subchannel) you can have up to 7 SD subchannels. Certainly enough room to amalgamate all of their existing broadcast programming into. Sure, it is low quality, but for people in rural areas that might get gypped with nothing due to low budgets at least they can have a lot of programming made available to them, and even though low quality could still be better overall than what they're currently getting with analogue. Furthermore, if they are currently receiving less than 7 analogue stations it could be easy to pipe in some extra programming in from the larger markets on a to-the-highest-bidder way.
 

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@ Techluvr,
Seeing the timestamp of your post, and my post just a few minutes earlier, perhaps you didn't see the last thing I said. You're right, CBC shouldn't subsidize the private networks, but I am suggesting that they auction of the subchannels to the highest bidder (however offering TVO for free or @ cost as a special case). CBC could even potentially profit from it, and everyone wins.
Right, I didn't see your last post while I was typing my reply. I hate to rain on your picnic but I am a natural cynic so...

- I'm not sure that Industry Canada would allow the auctioning off of channel allocations. The station doesn't own the frequency; it just pays a license to use it.

- I don't believe that the largest challenge is getting the signal up-the-tower; I believe that the major work and cost is the infrastructure to feed your signal to the transmission facility in the first place. This cost would still be there.

- I don't think the broadcasters all sit around the campfire singing Kum-bay-ya and thinking of ways to make you, the consumer happy. They want to attract advertisers away from one another. Only the publicly funded stations would even consider such an arrangement; the others are far more interested in slitting each other's throats.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Lol Techluvr,

Yeah, you're right, I'm sure they're not sitting in their offices singing kum bay ya for my sheer enjoyment & benefit.

Regarding your second point, to the towers that are broadcasting analogue channels, they already have the datafeeds in place. If that same tower already has a digital channel then the infrastructure implementations are nearly neglible. Should be a piece of cake to route some of their existing feeds into an existing digital signal... if whoever controls the digital channel permits the piggybacking. Back to the kum ba ya executives... they might be able to recoup some of their investment, or perhaps even a profit (profits are yummy to corps), by piggybacking some subchannels. For existing towers that only have analogue (no digitals yet - likely in the smaller market areas) they have to convert to digital sooner or later (2011) or they'll have to shut down. The infrastructure costs may be too high to bear upgrading every single channel to digital, but if they were to do even one channel installation they may continue with several program broadcasts (subchannels). This may be the most cost effective way for small broadcast towers to convert to digital by 2011, and I think that this solution is better than absolutely nothing if they couldn't otherwise afford multiple channel upgrades by 2011.

Regarding IC allowing auctioning of SUBchannels (not channel allocations), that's the point of writting to the CRTC, to request that they consider allowing existing DTV broadcasters to offer piggybacks (for a fee).
 

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My suggestions for Canadian digital OTA broadcasting

This thread has gotten quite huge in a short period, chock full of ideas I find great, others not so much... ;) so here are...

My Suggestions for a Truly Unique and Canadian Future for Digital OTA Broadcasting
  • Establish shared digital OTA transmitter locations that provide coverage directly or indirectly (in conurbated areas) to each of Canada's 130 highest-populated municipalities (thus covering almost 99% of the population)
    • Do this by converting existing towers/sites or building new as needed
    • Channels at each site would be granted power levels and contours as identical to each other's as possible that generously provide signal to surrounding rural areas
    • Shared sites could be commerically operated or co-operative in nature, perhaps even owned and operated by the municipalities, reserves, provinces, territories under CRTC licence with established fee structures
    • Fees would be paid by commercial broadcasters for Channel use, while CBC, education networks, CPAC, and certain very local community non-profit stations get a free ride
    • Specialty channels (as seen on CATV and Satellite systems) would be carried encrypted (as is specified in the ATSC standard) on those local OTA sites
    • Monthly fees would be paid by consumers to the local OTA provider for decrypting those Specialty channels at the ATSC tuner end
    • Consumer subscription fees for Specialty channels would be split between the local site operator(s) and the Specialty channel's operator(s) in a formula to be devised for the health of both entities
    • Efficacy, billing, and technical challenges of PPV and VOD via digital OTA need to be studied
  • Move all OTA TV channels to UHF frequencies
    • All consumer antennas in such given areas described above would only need to be for UHF and point in one direction
  • The MPEG4 compression standard, which is greatly superior to MPEG2, was recently approved and adopted by the ATSC.
    • A rollout of MPEG4 compression has not been suggested by the ATSC, leaving it up to broadcasters to implement in the future.
    • Canada can sieze this early opportunity to implement universal MPEG4 OTA (with MPEG2 fallback in the hardware for U.S. reception)
    • With MPEG4 compression it would be possible to have multiple HD streams broadcasting from each location in excellent picture quality without the need for as high a bandwidth share as MPEG2 streams require
    • ATSC MPEG4 transmitter and receiver gear can be designed and built here in Canada by companies like ATI, or licensed to manufacturers, giving a boost to our tech sector and getting a leg up on the huge American market (set top boxes, tuner chipsets, modules, PC cards, etc.)
    • Each household gets one tax credit for their ATSC MPEG4 receiver, given on submission of the purchase receipt for it at tax time for one year only, which either replaces the cost for low income citizens or provides a discount for middle income people.
    • All CATV and Satellite receivers will interface with, or adopt, ATSC MPEG4 tuners for local OTA viewing
  • National standards for minimum PSIP data:
    • Accurate NRC time, time zones, DST updates
    • Accurate station identification
    • Two week (minumum) Programming Guides
    • Emergency Broadcast channel capabilities (local dedicated 24x7 Public Service Announcement channel that can override all other local channel remaps in extreme situations with live, current emergency broadcasting or text overlays i.e Amber Alerts)
  • No OTA "White Space" use in Canada under any circumstances
  • No "Vertical" corporate broadcasting entities in Canada
    • No ownership ties between any of the following:
      • local OTA stations (as described above)
      • commercial TV broadcast networks
      • Specialty channels
      • CATV companies
      • Satellite broadcasters
    • Only horizontal business models are allowed (each according to its expertise and ability to remain financially stable)
The Financial Costs

I do not accept that the expense of converting local analogue OTA transmitters to digital is some sort of killer blow to their existence. I believe that these analysts did a respectable job of fulfilling their mandate to appraise the cost of one time conversions, but...

There are important expense factors being left out of the appraisal that change the understanding of a "total" cost:
  • the one-time capital cost of the digital OTA conversion of a transmitter (even a small, local one) will be offset over time by the vastly reduced expenditures of electricity to power the replacement transmitter to cover the same geographic area
  • older analogue NTSC broadcast transmitter exciters are big and bulky compared to the newer ATSC exciters. This means that expensive (usually helicopter-based in remote areas) repair/replace jobs are easier to perform on the newer, more compact ATSC gear, so expenses are likewise dropped.
  • replacement parts for NTSC broadcast transmitters will become increasingly rare, upping their price, while ATSC gear is becoming commonly available from competitor sources
  • economies of scale for bulk purchases of ATSC broadcast transmitter gear are not discussed in the report, so price discounts from the competitor suppliers are sure to be had
  • Multiplexing of the ATSC signals from local digital transmitters means that cost-sharing of remote sites becomes possible (as already mentioned above)
  • by forcing Canadians to subscribe to CATV or Satellite systems the entire nature of the freedom to receive TV signals is put in question, which is intolerable since nobody owes those BDUs a living. The monthly payments to those BDUs is capital flowing out of those local, remote areas even if it is subsidized, so local economies are adversely affected by such a forced or compelled commercial scenario.
 

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Naturally TV stations are in competition with one another, so it seems highly unlikely that a TV station will lease its subchannels to the competition (unless forced through regulation, but even then it's a tense relationship).

If any of the major Canadian media companies know what's good for them, they will likely be reducing costs in through sub-channel sharing. CTVglobemedia will most likely use CTV transmitters to send A-channel as a sub channel. Rogers will likely combine Omni and Citytv broadcasts in a similar fashion. TVO being a public broadcaster might be able to work something out with local CBC stations, but it's hard to say at this point how that would be handled.

Sun-TV being owned by quebecor, we may start seeing TVA subchannels in markets with sizeable French populations (Ottawa).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Stampeder,
Wow, really really really good points! You obviously know your stuff too.

Yeah, a SHARED DTV OTA transmitter is an excellent idea. Yes, community, govnt, & educational channels should get a free ride, however I am not in agreement with the non-profits. To many opportunities for NFP to take advantage of that. Personally I wouldn't want the available bandwidth to get sucked up by those religious channels or sobbing heart shows about starving kids, amnesty, or animals, that look like prolonged infomercials requesting that you "donate" funds to them. I think that NFP should pay for their subchannels, since after all they are trying to gather funds from viewers.

Yeah, having them on UHF is way better than VHF. Totally agree with the benefits, though a few people who's home is behind a mountain might lose out, the overall good outweighs the bad.

I don't know much about the compression standards. Maybe you could write up the section dealing with that topic to send to the CRTC?

I like the idea of the tax credit, similar to what the US did. Certainly would boost viewers converted, and also significantly raise awareness of DTV OTA in Canada.
 

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I like the use of sub-channels. Especially in smaller markets. But, I think individual companies should get a TV licenses, and then affiliate with the various networks.

They will know much better what their market would like to see.

Also, it would allow new networks to be created.

Do we want re-broadcasters to take the form of sub-channels, or do we want independant owners responding to their market, and selecting the programs, and channels they will air.

As well, larger markets should also be allowed to carry sub-channels. I don't see why the CBC is not running CBC Newsworld on a sub-channel.

I don't really see why there are two Omni stations. 1 HD Channel, and 1 SD channel will work.

I like the basic idea of the thread. I just would like to see independantly run stations deciding what sort of affiliations they would like to get. This will force the networks to respond to markets outside of Toronto & Montreal.

Also, becareful about suggesting to many sub-channels. The compression can get very bad.

As well, there was something in Wikipedia that I ran across that indicated that there were at least 2 station in the US running 2 HD streams (720p) on a single channel. I think one of them was on Oklahoma.

Question?
What is White Space?
 
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