HDTV Leaps 'Last Hurdle' In Transition

from the go-go-FCC dept

The FCC is really on a roll these days. First they agree to reform the spectrum allocation process and then they set some standards for HDTV that will allow digital TVs to embed technology to receive HDTV signal without a special converter box. However, there is a very scary sentence at the very bottom that comes with no details saying that to get this deal cable companies “compromised on proposals to limit home recording of digital programs.” There’s no clue what that compromise was and if it means we’re losing some consumer rights or not. If anyone has some more details, feel free to post them.

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Comments on “HDTV Leaps 'Last Hurdle' In Transition”

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DougP says:

Boxless Digital Cable

Although I don’t have any specific knowledge of this non-announcement, it looks like a big nothing.

It’s mainly about allowing TV manufacturers to include cable-ready tuners for modern cable systems, including digital cable systems and controlled access (scrambling/encryption of premium and pay-per-view channels). This was required to have happened 2-1/2 years ago, but everybody’s been sitting on their thumbs on this, including the FCC.

The USA Today article occasionally gets itself confused about the difference between cable and over-the-air broadcast. It also seems to get confused about the difference between DTV (digital) and HDTV (high-definition), and between digital transmission (digital cable) and digital displays (DTV).

It also is confused about the cable industry’s commitment to carrying HDTV. The cable industry did not commit “to showing at least five channels in HDTV next year”, they said that they would carry “up to five channels”. There is a huge difference. Also, there was no commitment to carry over-the-air digital broadcasts, and there seems to be a general industry assumption that cable will, in fact, rely on non-broadcast sources such as Discovery Channel’s new HDTV Theater channel.

The report also has some problems with its numbers. “Nearly half the USA’s 1,300 TV stations beam at least some prime-time shows in crystal-clear HDTV.” As of June 30, there were 1712 full-service TV stations licensed by the FCC in the US, not 1300. As of November 9, only 574 were operating a digital over-the-air transmitter, which is more like a third than “nearly half”. And as for “4.8 million households have digital TVs”, multiple households must be counting the same set, because the August issue of Digital TV puts the number of digital sets installed in US homes (as opposed to, say, sports bars) at 2.7 million.

Finally, Techdirt’s suggestion that the not-exactly-announced agreement is the result of FCC action seems unlikely. The FCC has refused to get involved in these goings-on, other than to sit on the sidelines haranguing the participants.

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