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Digital TV is coming to a screen near you!
- Subject: Digital TV is coming to a screen near you!
- From: Mark Shneyder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 3 Apr 1997 14:44:09 -0500 (EST)
WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuter) - Regulators were set
Thursday to give broadcasters free licenses to provide
revolutionary high-definition digital television that will
begin reaching viewers in the nation's top 10 markets within
After late-night talks Wednesday, Federal Communications
Commission officials agreed on rules detailing the roll-out of
digital TV broadcasts, which promise the biggest change in TV
viewing since colour pictures were introduced in the 1950s.
Officials said the FCC scheduled a public meeting Thursday
at which the agency's four commissioners were expected to
approve the rules, overriding objections from critics who say
broadcasters are getting a multi-billion dollar giveaway
through free use of the airwaves.
The decision by Congress to allow broadcasters to be given
the new licenses free of charge has provoked uproar from the
likes of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, other key
lawmakers, consumer advocates and others. The FCC has valued
the digital airwaves at up to $70 billion.
``This is, indeed, one of the largest federal giveaways of
the century,'' said Gigi Sohn, executive director of the Media
Access Project, a public interest law firm.
Broadcasters would be required to return their existing
analogue licenses to the government by 2006. The government is
expected to auction those licenses for other uses.
Digital TV offers crystal-clear pictures and CD-quality
sound. It is expected to promote a ``computer friendly'' TV
system allowing viewers to watch programmes while surfing the
Internet over the same ``smart box.''
Already, its pending introduction has started a race
between computer makers and TV manufacturers to woo viewers.
The FCC rules are expected to require stations affiliated
with the major networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- to begin
broadcasting digital signals in the top 10 metropolitan areas
within two years, according to officials.
Network affiliates within the top 30 markets would be
required to transmit in digital format within 2-1/2 years.
Under pressure from FCC officials, at least two dozen
stations have agreed to initiate broadcasts in the top 10
markets within 18 months, according to Commissioner Susan
Ness, who was a key participant in brokering the rules.
That would give manufacturers leeway to ship digital sets
in time for the important Christmas shopping season in 1998.
Ness said Wednesday the voluntary commitment of major
broadcasters to be on air by then and the commitment of TV
makers to have sets ready for consumers in those markets at
the time ``will fuel the rapid rollout of digital television.''
The top 10 markets are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago,
Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Dallas-Fort
Worth, Detroit and Atlanta.
``Broadcasters are prepared to voluntarily transition to
digital and high-definition TV faster than we converted from
black and white to colour TV,'' said Dennis Wharton, spokesman
for the National Association of Broadcasters. ``Consumers will be
the big winners once they experience the wonders of high-defition TV.''
Digital technology is expected to allow broadcasters to
squeeze as many as six channels through an existing channel,
or TV stations could offer a single high-definition signal.
Digital TV also is expected to hasten the convergence of
TV and computer technologies. Sports fans would be able to
watch a baseball game and split their screen to receive
up-to-the-minute scores of other games over the Internet.