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Television Media

FCC Mandates Digital Tuners 494

Gekko writes "The FCC has caved to pressures and has rolled back their mandate to requiring HDTV to 2007." A follow-up to this article: looks like the answer is "yes", although an extra year's delay has been added. Cherish your analog televisions, they will be collector's items. Update: 08/08 20:38 GMT by M : Declan McCullagh notes that there was also a vote on the broadcast flag concept to prevent copying of digital television - a set of draft regulations will be released next week.
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FCC Mandates Digital Tuners

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  • One point (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:54PM (#4033679) Homepage
    They'll only force stations to dump their analog transmitters if 80% of the US is able to recive digital TV. So if people just don't buy new TVs because the ones they have are fine (like me, and most people I know) then there will still be analog stations around for quite a long time.

    • Re:One point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:22PM (#4033944) Homepage
      80% of the US is able to recive digital TV

      Depends on your definition of "able to receive".

      If there's a broadcaster with digital transmission in the right range, you may be classified as "able to receive". What? You don't have a digital capable TV? Not their problem.

      The reality is that people are still buying televisions, and at a good clip. TVs wear out sooner or later, and even a minor repair often costs more than a new set.

      And before people whine and cry that this is just a big ploy to make everyone buy new TVs, remember that it was the manufacturer's association that was trying to block this. Yup. That's right. The people who you'd have to buy a new TV from were trying to prevent you from having to buy a new TV. I don't get it either.

      Oh, and their estimate of $250 additional cost is a load of crap. Yes, it would cost that much (or more) today, because of supply and demand. This very same organization complained that IEEE-1394 should not be made the digital connection standard for TVs because it would raise the cost of TVs $100 per connector. Yes. IEEE-1394, aka Firewire. You know, that connector you have 2 of on your new $80 motherboard? In addition to about 20 other connectors?
      • Re:One point (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Negadecimal ( 78403 )
        Won't there be a market for digital->analog downsamplers? Sure, you'd lose some resolution, but you wouldn't have to throw out that big screen that once cost a month's pay.

        Maybe that's what the manufacturer's association is wary of...

    • TVs break. People want bigger ones. DVDs make people want a nice TV. That 80% will change eventually, but not in 2008. I'd guess 5 years after required.
    • Re:One point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by monkeydo ( 173558 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @02:53PM (#4034647) Homepage
      The FCC has a real Chicken and Egg problem. They mandated that all TV stations stop broadcasting analog signals by 2006. Then congress came along and said stations couldn't stop transmitting analog signals if fewer than 85% of the TV households were able to recieve the digital signal. 85% is an impossibly high number, and congress knows it. Cable TV and VCR's don't even have 85% market penetration so how could DTV have it in only 8 years?

      Of course the FCC knows that any TV can view DTV signals with a converter -- they even put it in their FAQ [] but no one is going to buy a $200 piece of equipment to see what they are already watching down converted from DTV to analog. This also ignores whatever equipment people would need to actually recieve the DTV signal in the first place.

      So, the FCC knows people aren't going to invest in the equipment until the analog signal goes away. And the analog signal won't go away until people have the equipment. The FCC has no choice but what they are doing. The only other alternatives would be to force consumers to buy converters (or give them away). The FCC already forced broadcasters to send the DTV signal, and they won't send both signals forever.

      It will still take a long while for the tuners to get up tp the 85% level (even though that represents households and not sets) and I predict that number will eventually be lowered. Doing it this way will take much longer than the FCC originaly hoped, since it will first start with large TV's and then gradually all TV's, but it will happen eventually. And once the analog signal is turned off the number will climb rapidly. You can say now that you just won't buy a new TV, but eventually you'll need a DTV tuner to see anything at all. Much like the V-chip, DTV is something you will eventually have whether you want it or not.
  • Nothing like the bitter taste of having content "protection" crammed down your throat.
    • Re:Great. Shit. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShavenYak ( 252902 )
      Actually, I don't see anything about content protection in this. What is happening, is that the broadcasters want to force all HD sets to have the digital tuner for over-the-air broadcasters. Since tuners increase the set prices to the tune of several hundred dollars right now, this is actually going to slow down adoption of HDTV by making the sets overly expensive. Also, folks who intend to get their channels via cable or satellite will be forced to spend money on a tuner they won't use. The only beneficiaries of this move will be the electronics manufacturers, who will have higher revenues. Perhaps the retailers will get a bit more markup as well. The broadcasters aren't going to benefit from this move until they turn on their %@$#! DTV signals. If they'd get on the ball, they'd create demand for the digital tuners.

      Unfortunately, that still isn't going to change the fact that broadcasters are rapidly becoming irrelevant, with most homes opting for cable or satellite signal delivery. Heck, a lot of folks are buying big HD-ready RPTVs just to have a higher quality (widescreen, progressive-scan) monitor for their DVD collection. With mandatory tuners adding to the price, this market might dry up quickly.

      On the "glass is half full" side, maybe the tuners will get cheaper once they're in all the TVs.
  • by buckminster ( 170559 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:54PM (#4033683) Homepage
    At what point does the government have the power to dictate that an entire industry must change it's technology? It's not as if this is an issue of public safety. I just don't understand how the Feds create these kinds of requirements.

    • In this instance, it's because the government leases the airwaves to the companies.
    • Well, the FCC passes out licenses to broadcasters. Basically the broadcasters have to switch or they will lose their licenses. I'm not saying that the FCC should be allowed to do this, but that doesn't mean that they can't.
    • There's no question that government has the power to do this (though whether it should is of course another matter). The Constitution gives the Congress power to regulate interstate commerce. If Congress says you can't sell an analog TV, you can't sell an analog TV. Congress explicitly passed a bill mandating a transition to digital TV, ordering the FCC to handle the details.

    • At what point does the government have the power to dictate that an entire industry must change it's technology?

      When that industry is using airwaves that it doesn't own and the government wants to use them for something else. If your soccer team has played on a certain field for a while but then the town says we want to turn it into a park in a couple years to use this other field do they have that right? It's the town's field and they can do what they like with it, you knew that when you started playing there.

      However this situation is a little different now that I read the article :) I find it odd that the FCC feels it has to take this course of action rather than saying the stations won't be allowed to broadcast in analog after 2007. The people who need the tuners will get them while the vast majority will just get nothing and recieve their signal over sattelite or cable. The problem is that if they don't than people will just stick with analog and they can't pull the plug on it without disconnecting a lot of people. I feel it would of been a wiser decision to make any TV including a analog antenna to also have a digital tuner there by allowing the sattelite and cable people to continue while still enabling the change-over.
  • Digital Tuners (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mhatle ( 54607 )
    Personally I think this is a big victory for the Digitial (and HDTV) future. While the arguments of "people have satellite or cable" are valid, there is a VERY larger percentage of people that do not have either.

    I have been putting off the purchase of a new TV exactly for this reason, I don't want to screw around with an external tuner. Put it in the TV.
    • Re:Digital Tuners (Score:2, Informative)

      by hilker ( 69291 )
      While the arguments of "people have satellite or cable" are valid, there is a VERY larger percentage of people that do not have either.
      As of Feb 2002:
      Total Television Households: 105,444,330
      Basic Cable Households: 73,147,600

      So no more than 30% or so of households with a TV don't have cable. Add in homes with satellite dishes and that percentage drops fewer. Source: National Cable & Telecommunications Association. []
      • I recently heard a figure of 18% penetration for DBS systems (sorry, can't remember the source, but it was most likely on NPR), which would put homes that receive signals over-the-air around 12%. Also, it's quite likely that the folks which have neither cable nor satellite are not chomping at the bit to buy an HDTV, tuner or no.
    • this is really not true. I read an article this morning on USA Today (of all places) and the percentage of people that only watch TV signals coming over the air is so miniscule that it really is of little consequence.
    • (Not really a response to the previous article, other than to the fact that it's continuinuing to copy the mislabeling that yahoo (or somebody further upstream) started.)

      Darn it, they're talking about DIGITAL RECEIVERS.

      A DIGITAL TUNER is a device that selects an analog signal using a digital specification of the desired frequency. Doesn't matter if the signal itself is analog, digital, or whatever. A TUNER doesn't even DEMODULATE it. It just shifts its frequency to that of the IF amplifier (perhaps also amplifying it a bit and starting the process of filtering out nearby signals by attenuating those that are more than a few megahertz away from the desired signal.)

      A DIGITAL RECIEVER takes a DIGITAL SIGNAL and extracts the modulation.

      If this is "News for Nerds" let's get the terminology right.
  • cherish my what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by indiigo ( 121714 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:55PM (#4033692) Homepage
    Analog/Digital converter, cable boxes, Satellite Boxes, have you not been reading the articles you guys have been posting? This will be a $50-$200 purchase, in 4-5 years, at that, and no replacement on analog sets is required.

    • I aggree. It'll take a while for the manufacturers to work out integrating all of the digital features. I think I'll keep my ancient "analog" (actually digital internally) TV until 2010 or so. In the meantime I'll buy one or more settop digital converters with S-Video out.

      BTW, There's gonna be a LOT of howling by Joe SixPack on the radio talk shows when the day comes that there will be no more analog broadcasts.
    • Re:cherish my what? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      The price of digital decoders in TVs will eventually approach zero, but Cable-TV prices NEVER come down, and digital cable costs more than analog.

      Kinda like CDs. Prerecorded CDs *still* cost more than tapes, and the prices of the CD player and a single CD are getting *very* close. (You can get a CD player for $20 on special).

  • by Ezubaric ( 464724 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:56PM (#4033696) Homepage
    I really like my analog tuner; you can get some quality shows. Just the other day on channel 4 1/2, I was watching Tom Brokaw get the crap kicked out of him by Dennis Franz. That's good television.

    I won't even start to talk about Boston Public Access.
  • Good, and bad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by envelope ( 317893 )
    I'm glad that manufactures and broadcasters are being prodded in the right direction here.

    I do wonder about the propriety of it, though. Is it really the function of government to force the adoption of certain technologies? Shouldn't market forces prevail?

    I suppose there are plenty of precedents for government interference, so I shouldn't worry about this.

    Somebody tell me to shut up.

    • In this particular case.

      The FCC gave broadcasters huge swathes of new bandwidth for digital TV. While letting them hang onto their old bandwidth for old analog as well. The sooner they get users transitioned to digital, the sooner they can get back the old analog bandwidth and repurpose it for other uses.
  • One problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:56PM (#4033707) Homepage Journal
    First of all since there will be no analog signal coming to my house there is the obvious issue of DRM, but I'll let other people talk about that.
    If I want to watch TV in the future I will need a digital telvision, since by 2007 that will be all that they are selling. Which I don't mind so much since picture quality will be higher and it will hopefully cost less than a digital tv does now.
    My concern is whether or not old analog devices will plug into a new digital tv. Will the new tvs have RCA in/out, coax? Or only digital plugs. How am I supposed to plug my NES/Atari/VCR/ into this television since they only have analog out? The only things with digital out are DVD players with S-Video or component out (those are digital right?) and modern game consoles with the same.
    Anybody know?
    • Re:One problem (Score:2, Informative)

      by Steveftoth ( 78419 )
      S-Video is not digital. It's still analog, but the Ps2, X-Box and GC all support at least one digital output mode for hdtv.
    • Re:One problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by joshua404 ( 590829 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:19PM (#4033919)
      The only digital outputs currently available are Firewire and DVI. Everything else (composite, component, S-Video, even VGA) is an analog signal.

      Only a few TVs have firewire and/or DVI support as they are both very new offerings. That and nobody has adopted a real "standard" yet so the mfrs are not committing. Right now it looks as if DVI may gain a foothold - which would be a very unfortunate thing. The implementation of DVI that content providers want to use relies on HDCP copy protection - yet another alarmist, chicken little concoction whipped up by the MPAA. If HDCP is adopted it means that nearly every digital television sold in the US (3 million) not to mention every other country would be useless for HDTV. The MPAA has stated that the only resolution they would support for non-DVI televisions would be a paltry 480p, which is basically a non-interlaced version of what you already see on your TV. While it's an improvement, it sucks compared to true HD (720p, 1080i or the new 1080p).

      One of the biggest HDTV/DTV advocates out there right now is Mark Cuban. Apparently he is largely invested in HDTV broadcasting and has told both the MPAA and Congress that he would broadcast "de-rezzed" content over his dead body. Knowing his tenacity and financial clout, it's good to have him on the side of the consumer.

    • Re:One problem (Score:2, Informative)

      by Qwerty4 ( 153204 )
      There are currently no digital connections for televisions. Even HTDVs are fed analog component signals. The only digital video connection available is DVI which is used almost exclusively by good-quality PC video cards.

      You could argue that FireWire is digital, because it is, but it is not a video carrier. It is just a data protocol which may or may not contain video information.

      Analog: RF, Composite, S-Video (Y/C), Component (YPbPr), VGA (RGB)

      Digital: DVI
    • A 'digital tuner' is a couple of things:
      • A RF section that knows how to tune the channels (this can be shared with the analog part)
      • a QAM demod that demods the digital modulation into a transport stream
      • a transport processor - a combination of software and hardware to choose the audio/video substreams out of the transport mux
      • an mpeg2 decoder
      • some sort of scaler to convert the resolution of the incoming signal to your screen's resolution
      Only the last 2 are really (relatively) expensive - and no more than a DVD player without the drive. Best of all they are all just silicon - in large volumes the costs will get driven way down.
      Chances are the TV will have RCA/svideo in - but maybe not RCA/svideo out (because many of those digital streams probably wont be 525 interlaced) - or maybe an out that only works for 'old format' programs
  • What are the odds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:57PM (#4033715) Journal
    That consumer pressure keeps forcing the rollback year after year.

    People are going to be pissed if they have to spend big bucks on a new tv. Especially if they bought one just a year or two earlier. Talk about riots in the streets.

    Of course, you can't control copying on an analog product.

    I just might not get a new tv as it is. I would gladly participate in a class action suit if they force me to replace a TV that would normally last ten or 20 years as it was. never mind the VCRs

    • I have no plans to replace my current 19" tv until it breaks. I see no reason to upgrade to HDTV because there isn't any compelling content out there. The issue of copying has never come up because I actually buy all my DVD's rather than rent or download.

      So, I have to wonder - what benefit do I really get out of upgrading? Sure, some electronics store gets a few hundred bucks of my money, RIAA is protected until the next big thing comes along, but what's in this for me?

      Is there a federal buyback program on analog TV's? Will it clear up back pain and skin problems? What?
  • Why a mandate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GGardner ( 97375 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:59PM (#4033740)
    Why does the FCC need to mandate this? The FCC didn't mandate that all new televisions be color when color tv started. They didn't mandate that all radios must receive FM when that was started. They didn't mandate that all radios receive and decode stereo signals when that started. They did mandate certain types of compatibility with television and radio standards, which seems reasonable. If the market isn't willing to pay for digital television, is there really a compelling national reason to mandate it?

    • Re:Why a mandate? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pastie ( 80784 )

      If the market isn't willing to pay for digital television, is there really a compelling national reason to mandate it?

      There is only one reason: Money. They can use the extra bandwidth which is freed-up by the switchoff of the analogue TV to licence for other uses.
      • Even more so, there was an article in Wired recently (can't find it) that stated that Congress has planned a budget intake of $18-$19 billion from the sales of the analog spectrum for the budget in the 2005-2007ish range; there would be a significant hole in the budget if the analog spectrum is not freed by that time. The article stated that legislation may have had to come into play if the FCC decision this week did not clear the analog spectrum out in a reasonable timeframe.

    • Re:Why a mandate? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MajroMax ( 112652 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:10PM (#4033834)
      If the market isn't willing to pay for digital television, is there really a compelling national reason to mandate it?

      In the FCC's mind, Yes. All the improvements to the TV-signal you listed (color, stereo) have the advantage of being completely backwards-compatible with older broadcasts. Presuming it still physicially functions, there's no reason a TV from 1940 shouldn't be able to watch VHF signals today.

      What the FCC's trying to do here is _replace_ the TV standard, not extend it. For the moment, all TV stations have two channels (and frequency bands, by extension) -- their normal VHF or UHF analog band, and a HDTV band. Once the conversion is complete, the FCC will order the VHF/UHF transmitters shut down and the frequency returned for whatever use the FCC deems appropriate. By its very nature, this conversion is _not_ backwards compatible.

      It's too far along for the FCC to pull the plug on HDTV, but the transition isn't moving quickly enough that the FCC currently has hope of killing analog TV within our lifetime. Therefore, this move.

      Of course, the question now is whether there's enough turnover in TVs that just mandating digital receivers (which are distinct from the display equipment required for the HD signal -- you'll likely be getting analog quality display on the HD signal) will increase the digital market penetration quickly enough to avoid the next boondoggle.

    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:16PM (#4033889)
      Why does the FCC need to mandate this?

      Quite simple really, they are owned by the big entertainment companies. The entertainment companies are the ones who want this, so they can put DRM in the framework and force it on all of their evil, pirating, unethical customers.

      But I am guessing that they'll have to find some way to ease this into the customer's butts, cause it won't go over at all if they try to cram it in all at once.

    • The FCC didn't mandate that all new televisions be color when color tv started.

      No, but they did mandate that a color TV signal be viewable on a B&W TV -- which is how we ended up with NTSC (which is basically just a black and white signal (luma) with a color signal (chroma) superimposed (shoehorned into a little extra bandwidth)).

      Similarly FM (or AM) stereo broadcasts can be listened to an an FM (or AM) mono receiver.

      Unfortunately there's essentially no way for an analog receiver to get anything meaningful out of a digital signal.
    • Digital TV consumes the same amount as analog TV, OR LESS.

      Broadcasters have two options going digital: Higher quality, same channel bandwidth. Or current quality, something like 1/4 channel bandwidth.

      Color TV was a better signal in the same bandwidth, and had a lot to offer for the consumer. Full res HDTV is the closest analog to this, but offers less to the consumer.

      When FM started there was plenty of spectrum in the broadcast band - In fact, the FCC gave broadcasters excessively wide channel spacings. (Needed for technical reasons at the time, no longer necessary. This is being taken advantage of by current standards proposed for digital radio broadcasting that have both the old analog signal AND the digital signal occupying the same channel.) FM also offered a lot for the consumer.

      The problem with standard-res low-bandwidth TV is that it offers very little of visible benefit to the consumer. The beneficiaries are the broadcasters (Theoretically they can broadcast 4 standard-def streams in the bandwidth they are already licensed for), and later the consumers, although indirectly. As someone pointed out in the recent Sprint/2.5G/3G cellular thread, the main thing holding back 3G is spectrum. Care to take a guess where some of that spectrum was supposed to come from??? Yup, bandwidth freed up by moving TV broadcasts to digital.
      • Broadcasters have two options going digital: Higher quality, same channel bandwidth. Or current quality, something like 1/4 channel bandwidth.
        Yeah, only that "current quality" in the digital format looks like something I scraped off the bottom of my shoe ... blocky, full of MPEG artifacts ... way lower quality than a clean analog broadcast.

        (What's more, am I the only one who's noticed that a good analog broadcast signal looks better than most people's analog cable these days? I don't use cable myself, but a lot of the cable hookups I've seen give pictures that are full of ghosts, poor color, etc... )

    • digital radio (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why don't they mandate digital radion, it's been arround a hell of a lot longer than T.V.

      Oh i remember, they want to sell the air again.
    • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:35PM (#4034043) Journal
      NPR had a bit on this the other day. The FCC projected that all the analog transmitters would go dark by 2006. They then expected to make ~$15 billion by selling the spectrum to wireless communications companies.

      The problem is, the balanced budget agreement signed in 1997 already factored in this money as part of government revenues, and budgets were set assuming the money would be available on schedule. The first auctions were supposed to start this September.

      Of course, virtually nobody actually owns a digital TV in 2002, so now the FCC is panicking.

    • Simply because the few and organized wield much more powerful than the many and disorganized.

      Maybe the government shouldn't have the power to tell me what kind of #$(*&#$* television I can buy?

      • Re:Why a mandate? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by goldmeer ( 65554 )
        Maybe the government shouldn't have the power to tell me what kind of #$(*&#$* television I can buy?

        You can buy whatever TV you want. You can purchase a vintage 1970 Zenith 15" floor console and set it up. You can purchase a 1985 "cable-ready" setup and use it. You can purchase a 2000 flat screen plasma display. Heck, if you want to buy an Etch-A-Sketch and mount it on the wall (Ohh, it's so thin!) and call it TV and there's *NOTHING* that anyone can or would do to you.

        What the government *CAN* do however, is tell the broadcasters that service your area to turn off the signal that your "legacy" systems require to tune "off the air" programming.

        Does this mean that your old TV is now landfill fodder? Maybe. You see, this only applies to "off the air" programming. Your local cable company will still be able to offer "legacy" cable service if they want. Of course, you will have to do some tricks to get that old Zenith working on cable, and don't get me started on the hacking needed to get that Etch-A-Sketch to be "Cable-Ready"...

    • This is no shit. They have budget plans that expect $18 billion from auctioning off the analog spectrum. They can't auction it off if it is still transmitting analog TV. Thus they have to force everybody over to digital.

      $18 billion is a lot of money even in these times.
  • by yeoua ( 86835 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @12:59PM (#4033741)
    Yea, we all love that clearer and prettier picture on those tv's. But for me... I'm not going to buy one anytime soon. Why? Well... what am I going to with it? What show on tv is going to be better than it already is with a better picture? Not many. Most shows aren't that great to begin with, so a better picture won't help.

    Yea, it might be nice to get it just for DVD's, so you get a better display, but then i always have my computer there, though it does have a small screen, it has better resolution. Or borrow a projector and screen and plug it into the computer.

    But other than having the perfect home MOVIE entertainment system, I don't really see any need to buy, or push, for hdtv in the home, when the shows don't even warrant this.

    Of course, if they can somehow make these tv's cheap, then people will buy them, on their own accord. Forcing upgrades isn't exactly the most fun thing for consumers, who are the ones who actually pay for this stuff.
  • nothing was said about broadcast flags, does this mean there wont be any? Or that it's still under debate? or did the FCC actually say "screw you" to the MPAA?
    • or did the FCC actually say "screw you" to the MPAA?

      Frankly, doing so loudly and publicly is their only chance of meeting even the 2007 date. Any FUD about the ability of Joe Sixpack to keep using his VCR in the manner to which he has become accustomed is enough to kill the concept, without any need to get into the details of the rights issues.

  • by shaldannon ( 752 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:01PM (#4033751) Homepage
    After years of consumers voting with their wallets for good ol' analog TV because they're plenty satisfied with the current quality and not satisfied with the extra cost of a digital TV, the Feds now seem quite bent on forcing them to buy digital. I don't get the motivation here. What do the Feds get from forcing mass change to HDTV?

    I've seen the commercials on TV touting HDTV, but I (not alone among TV consumers) am quite happy with the one I have. Is HDTV going to make watching NBC news somehow more exhilerating? I doubt it. Are they trying to shore up a sagging HDTV market? Is there a market for something that few people are adopting?

    I remain unconvinced that this idea is in anyone's interest, and would love to see some concrete arguments in favor of it.
    • I believe the FCC will be able to make money by relicensing the current frequencies. Compressed digital signals use less bandwidth than uncompressed analogue signals, so the FCC can resell the spare bandwidth (eg for 3G networks). That's the government's plan in the UK, anyway - I assume the FCC has something similar in mind.
    • What do the Feds get from forcing mass change to HDTV?

      They get the spectrum back. Currently, TV stations got their spectrum as a freebie from the government, way back In The Day.

      Now, they're getting HDTV spectrum for free, with the requirement that they'll be forced to shut down their VHF/UHF transmission someday and return the spectrum. Unfortunately for the FCC (and the boradcasters that have to maintain two sets of transmition equipment) HDTV is not being adoptes as quickly as even the slowest projections said it would be -- currently, we're not on track _at all_ for there to be enough adoption for the FCC to force the shutdown of analog broadcasts.

      In the meantime, the FCC has giveen a relatively huge band of valuable spectrum away, with little hope of recovering the huger band held by current analog broadcasts. Therefore, they're trying to take steps to speed adoption in any way they can.

      FCC: 0 -- Broadcasters: 0 -- Consumers: -1

    • by CoreyG ( 208821 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:17PM (#4033906)
      Digital TV does not necessarily mean High Definition TV. A signal can be broadcast digitally in 480p (480 lines progressive) which is what Fox is planning on doing. A 480p signal is not considered an HD signal. ABC is banking on 720p (720 lines progressive; HD). Other networks have decided on 1080i(1080 lines interlaced; HD).

      This means you can have a Digital TV that is not HD compatible. Generally, to be HD compatible a television must display either 720p or 1080i. It should be noted that these are not all of the HD signals, but the most common. I believe there are also 1080p, and (maybe)540p or 840i signals, but they are uncommon. To be a Digital TV you only have to display 480p.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:03PM (#4033770)
    The FCC mandated that all broadcasts be digital by 2006. That doesn't mean they have to be high def. You can broadcast in 480i in digital by 2006 and still be in compliance. They FCC has now ruled that the digital tuners have to be in TV's. They didn't say they had to be HD tuners.

    Digital TV isn't necessarily HDTV. Make sure you understand this point.
  • by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:04PM (#4033778) Homepage
    He's not a real tech guy, as I sometimes imagine myself to be. So he's confused about the pressure to move to digital. His bigest gripe? He watches a lot of public television and during the last funding drive they were talking about the wonders of digital as part of their pitch.

    He asked me: "When did we, the public, without which public television would not exist, vote that we wanted to move to digital television? How is it in the public interest to move public programming to a new standard for which most people don't have televisions and which will eventually necessitate the the purchase of a new set?"

    Good questions, and he's starting to understand some of what is going on in the name of progress that is starting to encroach on the public good that he, and really all of us, are used to.

    The nightmare scenario for him, of course, would be that he couldn't be able to time-shift News Hour [], Washington Week [], and The McLaughlin Group [] because of digital no-record flags. He tells me that the majority of the TV he watches is recorded with only a small portion being live.

    Of course, my dad also says that the problem with TV isn't that there is too little good stuff to watch, but rather that there is really too much. He loves his TV. :^)

  • Because for all our DRM and Govt. intervention issues, we're the guys that buy the stuff first at the highest cost because we've-gotta-have-it-now.

  • Whathappens to TiVo and other DVR boxen now? once analog is gone, and the HDTV digital tuner is embedded into the box, there's no access point to divert the data to a third-party box.

  • by HBergeron ( 71031 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:11PM (#4033845)
    Ok here is the big question I cannot seem to get an answer to. In the FCCs meeting this week they are also beginning the process to require a digital broadcast flag "reader" in digital tuners. A regulation is expected by January.

    What is the effect of a broadcast flag on digital tuners that are currently on the market? Do they bypass the flag? Will they not work? Will they somehow recognize and follow the flag?

    Given that the flag issues is not yet worked out, and we're now mandating the digital tuners, are we designing a great big hole in the system or are we requiring millions of people to buy equipment that will be obsolete in just a couple of years?

    hmm - is the reason the broadcasters and content guys are pushing the integrated tuner because they know that means when the old pre-flag set wear out, those tuners will be gone?

    Also - can't manufacturers get around this by calling their sets "monitors" and not televisions. In the old days a "monitor" was a tunerless tv, and with advent of hdtv resolutions/capabilities, the dividing line between the newer meaning of (computer) monitor and tuner-less TV essentially disappears.

    • If they don't get things worked out soon then the digital rights management whinges will die. That simple. Because no, they won't change the standard and piss off all the early adopters -- there's too many of them to piss off.

      Don't forget that this also requires changes on the broadcast side. Sure, pissing off a few hundred thousand consumers with HDTV receivers may not cause issues. Pissing off a few hundred broadcasters, all of them in the largest markets, will.

      As far as getting around it by calling them "monitors" -- maybe, but then you can't have any kind of receiver in there. Questionable if you can even have a speaker. If you put in an analog tuner you must put in a digital tuner -- that's what this FCC decision is all about. You also can't call it a TV, market it as one, or allow retailers to market it as such.

      Back on the copyright flag bit -- there's an ongoing battle between the studios and the manufacturers about what should be involved. The studios want very draconian standards, which will toast all current HD sets (they'll be limited to lower resolution analog input). The manufacturers don't want to piss off the consumers or broadcasters. The manufacturers have the upper hand here -- all they have to do is wait and the market will be too big to change.

      Note that there are already "copy any/once/never" flags in the standard (I think -- the new Digital VCRs comply to them), but the studios know that they're ineffective (think about how effective DVD regions or DAT copy flags are).
  • by SkipToMyLou ( 595608 ) <b@b.b> on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:12PM (#4033848)
    (unfortunately I can't take credit for this one. It was written by a fellow slashdotter a while back, and I've lost the attribution. If the author is still out there, let me know and I'll send you a beer ;-) )

    For those interested in a brief history of HDTV, here it is:

    Here's how it went:

    Broadcast Industry asks for bandwidth for HDTV
    FCC says "OK, we'll set aside bandwidth for HDTV"
    FCC says "What standards?"
    Industry says 'No Standards Please' and come up with EIGHTEEN recommended formats for HDTV. I am not shitting you.
    FCC says "Isn't 18 different standards a bit much?"
    Industry says "Shut the fuck up FCC, we know what we are doing. The 'market' will handle this!"
    Consumer Electronics dudes whine "18 formats make every thing cost more, you are fucking us!"
    FCC says "OK, it's your call on standards, 18 formats is fine, infact there are NO STANDARDS AT ALL, 'cause we are letting the 'market decide', but you start broadcasting HDTV now or we take back the FREE bandwidth."
    Industry says "What? We really just want the free bandwidth. You really want us to do HDTV??
    Congress says "Fuck you Industry. Broadcast HDTV or we'll legislate your asses back to Sun-day!"
    Industry says "We're fucked. 18 formats? Why the hell did we do that? Let's change it."
    Consumer Electronics dudes say "You ain't changing shit. We are already building the boxes you said you wanted built."
    FCC says "Yah, ya boneheads we told you 18 was too many, now you gotta live with it."
    Industry says "Well FCC, will you at least make the cable companies carry the HDTV at no charge?"
    Cable companies say "Fuck you! You gotta pay! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!"
    FCC says "Yep, no federal mandated on HDTV must carry, we are letting 'the market' handle that"
    Industry says "We are so fucked. We are spending 5-10 million per TV station in hardware alone and have 1000 HDTV viewers per city, even in LA!"
    Consumer at home says "Where is my HDTV? Why does it cost so much? Fuck it, I'm sticking with cable/DirecTV."

    Consumer electronics dudes, broadcast industry, FCC, and congress all cry. Cable companies laugh and make even bigger profits.
  • I live in detroit, and get nice Canadian stations as it stands. I get all my hockey imported :D

    However, If they manage to force it without any DRM strings, I won't fight it because of the better health implications of digital transmissions, like lower power.

    If you think crack heads are bad, wait till you see what happens when the government tries to turn off the TVs. The white house will be purged.

    Here's a random anti-TV site. Google for more. [].

  • Kinda-sorta on topic. :)

    I'm going to be in the market for a new TV soon, so I've been looking around.

    I've got a DVD player and a digital cable box (and for that matter, a VCR) so I don't need any more tuners.

    I've got an amplifier that switches video sources (SVideo, composite, and component) and does all my surround decoding, so I don't need any more speakers/surround processors either.

    I just want a big honkin' display with an SVideo and a component video input. No speakers, no tuner, no REMOTE! Just a display.

    Does anybody make such a beast?

    • Do one better, projectors. Not only do most take component, svideo, but they also take xga (1024x768) natively. is one place to look.

      Perhaps not what you had in mind, but it has a great deal more possibilities than any large display.

      If you have tons of cash, there are always plasma displays.
  • Its a 20 year old Curtis Mathis 25" TV. Other then the fact that it only has coax in, and that the remove is broken, it still works fine. I just end up using the VCR remote anyways.

    Speaking of which, I still use an amplified settop attenna to pick up the four local broadcast stations (go UHF! UHF! UHF!). Get all the networks, and the whole setup cost me about $75 ( $25 for the TV, $50 fot the attenna). Less then the setup fees + first month of satelitte or cable.

    Of course, now that I'm moving to a metro area, I'm debating picking up cable just for modems....

  • Agh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Henry Stern ( 30869 )
    Whenever I see this topic coming up, I'm reminded of the #1 quote [] on the #geekissues quote database involving inventing a device with which he could stab people in the face over the internet. Will people please learn the difference between Digital TV and HDTV? Thank you.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I must say that I am distressed about the "Digital Age." As more and more of the analog forms of transmission are eliminated the ability to censore, stifle, and prohibit the exchange of information grows stronger. I have pointed this case out time and time again and as such I will point this out again also:

    Under the DMCA analog transmissions (i.e. non-digital, verbal, print, etc.) are covered under the anti-curcumvention clause. This in effect can make it illegal to discuss a topic. Here is how:

    I make a product called the Widget Foobar 3K (3000 calories). It is a potentially dangerous form of addictive candy with sharp edges and big pointy teeth. With digital television (Which is encrypted btw) I broadcast a commerical.

    Pan 3 hours after the launch and 10 kids die (This is an absurd but clear way to describe this) from the WF3K. I as a parent or survivor want to warn the world so I hope on /. to rant.

    Because the commerical is digital and encrypted I cannot use ANY content that was encrypted. So I cannot say the name of the product (That is encrypted information via the TV) which hampers the fact that I cannot describe the item (Any information that is in the encrypted broadcast is covered via the DMCA) and I am unable to warn parents, who for some odd reason, were unaware that eating razor sharp candy with 3000 calories might be bad for your child.

    Knowing I cannot write about it I decide to run out in the street and shout about it. Sorry, verbal communication is catagoized as AN ANALOG transmission over public airwaves, again covered by the DMCA.

    This is an extreme case (In fact virtually impossible, exaggerated to illustrate the mechanism of the censorship.) Now here is the very likely and REAL impact.

    --- Begin Reality Check Version 4.0 ---
    --Checking Human RAM ...
    --(Barring Mental Illness this will return OK)
    --Memory Check Complete, Forgot FirstKiss.Mem
    --Attempting to reclaim FirstKiss.Mem
    --File FirstKiss.Mem has file error type: WASDRUNK
    --Unable to Recover.
    --Memory Check: OK (.0000000000000001% tests bad)
    --- Reality Check Version 4.0 Complete ---
    --- Loading Reality OS ---

    Ok here is the real solution.

    You are a book publisher publishing classical literature. Sales are down thanks to Project Gutenberg. You decide to complete by making a digital version of Hamlet (for example.) The attempt fails as Gutenberg is free and you $1.00 copy of Hamlet is a buck to high.

    Now you get nasty and evil. Perhaps your parents didn't love you enough. Who cares. You decide to use the DMCA to crush PG. How you ask? Simple.

    You make a crap-tacular encryption system to encode your EBook. Done.

    You Publish your Ebook and sell it. (Few Buy of course.)

    Under the DMCA the circumvention of an Encryption scheme is a violation. (Check the law, it doesn't mention anything about the content, just the encryption itself.) Covered under this encryption is Analog transmission (i.e. Recording digital TV with a camcorder by pointing the camcorder at the T.V screen) is a violation. Just as reciting Stephen King's "Pet Cemetary" in public word for word is a copyright infringment.

    Now suddenly PG is violating the DMCA! How? By providing an unencrypted version of the same text. There isn't a copyright infringment, merely a DMCA violation. No Mr. Ebook publisher can charge $200 per page to read Hamlet (which no person can afford, effectivly banning the book) and no person living under DMCA juridiction can publish their own version (as it would contain data within the encrypted version of the book.)

    Now PG gets sues into obscurity and the book publisher has found a whole new level of book banning. Don't like someone's review? Digitally run an ad on HDTV with all the specs, the independant reviews cannot mention ANY of the data contained in the transmission as it would violate the DMCA (How about pictures... I wonder if they took a picture of you and broadcast it, would further pictures of yourself be a violation? Creepy...) We are NOT talking about copyright, fair use, etc. We are looking at the DMCA at an entity of it's own.

    Why burn books when you can Hijack them? Think I am a few donuts short of a baker's dozen, probably. But I tend to plan for "Worse Case" scenarios (That is part of my job) and this has way too much danger to turn into a nightmare of a Ray Bradbury book.. (Can you guess which one?)

    Think of the capacity for social enginneering! Contol the information and you will control the world.

    Knowledge is power they say, and the wicked crave power, and let me ask you this: Those who are wicked and powerful, do they like to share power?
  • ...thats fine. I just bought a new TV a year ago. I will use that MF'er till it breaks. When it does, I will not buy a new one. I'll just read books or something.

    Sorry, I'm not going to be a sacrificial lamb to the FCC..
  • Why is it the same thing in Europe and USA that government decides whether people want to watch analog or digital TV. If no-one is interested in your stupid DTV then it just is so. If no-one is interested in taking the business risk involved, you loose. If no-one is interested in sending digital broadcasts then accept it. If people really would see the benefit in it, noone would have to force be forced to do it. There's is no valid reason why digital and analog TV could not co-exist for 10 years, for example. During that time also other people than those who sit in every countries Digital TV committee would have time to judge whether there is any point in it for them as individual or not. Well, I quess this is not the first them when some new cool new technology is tried to be pushed to market by force. Mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble.... :)
  • I haven't been following this too closely. Does this mean that everyone will have a cable or sattelite connection to watch TV? For people in rural areas, that really means the only choice is satelite. Currently there is only 1 real company (DirecTV) that provides that service. Isn't the government handing them the market on a silver palter? I'm confused!

  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:28PM (#4033987) Journal
    My cell phone is a "dual mode" phone - my provider is Verizon. It works on either digital or analog cell towers.

    Which means, that in the city, I always get my text messaging and the like, but in some areas (out in the woods) it's typical to have analog-only service. Not only does this not bother me, I appreciate having some service over none.

    Why can't they do this with televisions? Put a tuner in their that will work with both types of channels? If the FCC simply required that all new TVs were "dual mode tuner" TVs, rollout of HDTV would be *ALOT* less painful!

    I'd imagine that the analog tuner circuitry would quickly drop to a single $3 chip...

    • It works on either digital or analog [...] Why can't they do this with televisions?

      They do -- there are a number of "digital-ready" tvs already out there, especially widescreen TVs.

      They're the ones that cost $1000 more than the analog only ones. Why? Its not because the digital components are that much more expensive. They're not...and being digital, Moore's law kicks in as it does with anything with a chip in it, making the price of the component half every 18 months.

      No, the real reason is that the makers still have not let a standard be decided from the 18 different standards available when the FCC first said "let the market decide".

      (and how do you decide on a standard and test that standard on the consumer end with nobody broadcasting in digital to see the difference, yet without consumers no broadcaster would commit to a standard either...ultimate in catch 22, hence the current FCC mandate of digital by 2008)

      So with 18 different standards for digital TV, you have 18+ different patents you have to sign on to and pay royalties for...

      one can guess how much 18+ patents cost: about $1000 / unit.

    • because (as other threads have pointed out), the whole point of this is for the FCC to get the analog spectrum back so that they can re-sell it for something to the order of $15-$18 billion dollars to the phone companies.
  • Get over it! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dante ( 3418 )

    I have had a HDTV (without a tuner) for about a year, I bought a tuner (nice one too)a few months ago and was disapointed,I even bought a fancy antenna. There was only 4 channels that broadcast hdtv and the quality ranged from amazing to _realy_ bad. Left it hooked up but did not use it for a while, then I had it scan for new channels last weekend and lo and behold six new channels! It looks like the local TV stations have been upgrading becase the the quality seemed to of increased also. Now it's worth it, six month ago I am not so sure.. HD is fast becoming "worth it".

  • I'm going to go ahead and start saving up to buy a digital tuner now (RCA has a model that doubles as a DSS receiver for ~$550) before the MPAA and RIAA get a chance to force DRM into the standard. It will probably be pricey, but if this the only way I'll be guaranteed to record broadcast television, so be it.
  • by Elm0 ( 599465 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:39PM (#4034083)
    In the UK, traditional analogue terrestrial services will be switched off at around the same time as yours in the US (possibly earlier), although with the recent collapse of ITV Digital, this proposal may be shifted further into the future. This has been planned since UK Digital was turned on in 1999.

    I can understand why US authorities might want to move over to a completely digital service, freeing up Analogue frequencies to be used for more Digital services. After all, a digital receiver (which will only pick up free to air channels) is around £90 here, which is bound to drop in price when the demand shoots up after Analogue broadcasts are turned off. I don't believe this is as much a conspiracy between electronics companies (the majority of which are Japanese anyway) that some of you make it out to be.

    I agree with the poster above who mentions the thinking behind HDTV: is anyone really too bothered about watching anything other than movies in high resolution? I can't see myself being desperate to watch Jerry Springer on HDTV, irrespective of the views I have on the actual program itself.
  • This article in San Jose Merc [] highlighhts some additional interesting battles. It states that tv manufacturers are battling cable companies to integrate the box into the TV set (something long overdue), and that has spilled into the HDTV war.

    What's especially interesting is that the tuner is only used to pull air-based HDTV signals, thus adding additional cost with no practical use to all the cable/sat owners if the boxes.

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Informative)

    by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg@cowl a r k . c om> on Thursday August 08, 2002 @01:48PM (#4034152) Homepage Journal
    Whenever I hear people talk about the total shambles that is the US DTV phenomenon, the biggest criticism I come across is that people say they'll have to buy new televisions.

    Um, what?

    Here in the UK, we're slowly but surely switching over to all-digital broadcasts. I forget when the analogue turn-off date is, but we seem to be on target (more or less). You can't get a new cable or satellite installation these days that isn't digital, and the BBC is picking up the broadcast digital stations.

    This is all done with a little box that sits under your TV. It decodes the digital data, and then you plug in a SCART connector or S-Video or whatever you like and watch it on your analogue TV. Usually the boxes come free when you sign the contract. For broadcast, you'll probably end up buying the boxes for under 50 UKP, but then the channels are all free.

    So what am I missing? What's all this stuff about having to replace your TVs?

  • OK, so the government bans analog televisions just because they could possibly used to receive analog television signals. What if I want to use the analog television set for viewing DVDs with my analog DVD player? Seems to me like banning razor blades just because they could possibly be used to hijack airplanes.

  • The local FCC, Ficora [] (Finnish Communications Regulation Authority) has ruled that all analog broadcasts will be ended in 2006 here. There has been quite a lot of talk about this since virtually no-one seems to be willing to buy a new digital television set for this.

    A small amount of people have already bought digital tv's but the deadline is too soon for the majority of people. Digital tellies are currently too expensive for the average John Doe and neither are the commercial tv channels interested in providing anything special for those who're watching the programmes digitally (since nobody has the equipment for them).
  • This affects the manufacturers, not the broadcasaters. So what if they simply refuse to incorporate digital receivers into their products? The TV sets don't broadcast, so they don't require a license. What they're receiving is public airwaves, so they can't be forced to receive only certain frequency ranges (think cell phones and scanners).

    Of course, the broadcasters can pull the plug in 2007 and go all digital, but if the manufacturers simply refuse to comply, then suddenly 95% of the market simply doesn't exist anymore. Those who get cable, satellite, or only watch DVD's, VHS, etc don't even need it, unless the mandate covers all of those as well. That market can still buy the non-digital TV sets with the caveat that after 2007 they won't recieve traditional broadcast TV anymore.

  • Michael Powell the FCC Chairman said and I quote

    "I honestly don't have any idea what public interest is."

    OK Mike so I guess youz a ho for the media companies.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday August 08, 2002 @02:17PM (#4034419)
    One thing I can see coming up is a lot of very confused and angry consumers.

    Sure there are going to be boxes (like digital cable boxes now) that allow you to watch the new content on an older TV.

    But in systems now, most people have cable installers hook up even the simple boxes we have today. Are people going to want to hire someone to install a box for broadcast, even assuming they can afford the box?

    Also, I can already see the worst issue - macrovision. I'm sure all of these digital recievers will support macrovision, and when people hook the boxes up to old VCR's (which they will do in droves, don't tell me PVR's will even have a 20% penetration by 2006) they are going to get bad pictures and return the boxes.

    I've already seen a preview of this in action - recently I was in a target and a wal-mart on two seperate occasions returning something, and each time there was a person ahead of me exchanging a game console for a brand new one "because the picture was all messed up watching DVD's". I explained to the people each time what Macrovision was and that they had to run the signal straight to the TV, but it really made me wonder how many perfectly good consoles get returned TODAY because of macrovision, much less a future box that everyone in the US will need to watch TV.

    I have no idea what happens when every TV junkie in the US gets mad at government, but it will sure be interesting to find out. I expect major firefighting efforts from the government on this issue.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll