Digital television is becoming a global trend with a startling velocity. Following the lead of North America and Western Europe, a host of countries in East/South Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe are also hastening the epic shift from analog to digital television. It is predicted that approximately 1 billion people will be viewing digital broadcast television by the end of this year. At the current pace, nearly 38 percent of the world’s TV households will be receiving digital signals by 2010 (Informa Telecoms & Media, 2007, p. 2).
Underlying this technological gold rush is an array of remarkable features that digital broadcasting presents: interactivity, multichannel capacity, immunity to interference by other signals, superb audio-visual qualities, and quasi-universal interoperability with other media that recognize digital language. These outstanding qualities are founded upon the quintessence of digital technology: the binary codification (comparable to the dots and dashes of the telegraph code), which converts data into “a bitstream of zeros and ones” (Owen, 1999, p.151).
Since digital technology can break down virtually any type of information (print, painting, music, sound, photography) into a uniform code of bits and bytes, it is now possible to establish universal compatibility among various media. As Timothy Todreas (1999) observes, “text, graphics, audio and video used to be within the purview of separate industries: print, radio, and television respectively. Once digitized… bits can commingle effortlessly. Content can travel down the same distribution path and can be used interchangeably” (pp.78-79).
Paradoxically, the atomize-ability of digital technology precipitates digital convergence, in which all the sophisticated traditional media taxonomies and typologies will become muddied and eventually obsolete. Aside from the universal connectivity of digital television with neighboring media, there are a few other properties of digital television: audio/visual excellence, multichannel capacity, and interactivity. The digital television is capable of delivering superior audio/video quality compared to its analog counterpart.
However, the enhanced audio/visual fidelity of digital television is best exploited in a combined use with the Hi-Definition television system, an advanced method of injecting televisual signals onto the screen in a much more precise fashion than that of its predecessors, the NTSC and PAL systems. Contrary to common belief, HDTV is not an immediate offspring of the digital television system, although electronics makers, broadcasters, and policymakers of the digital television excitedly promote it as digital television’s headliner.
There are multiple, significant reasons behind the deliberate “passing” of HDTV as the figurehead of digital television, especially in a Japanese context. Compared to analog signals, digitized information takes much less bandwidth, i. e. , much less channel capacity to distribute content per unit of time. This technical “thriftiness” is an end result of the compression technology that can filter out redundant data and squeeze more data into a given bandwidth. The economic use of bandwidth means greater space to fit more channels, which ends the “distribution bottleneck” (Todreas, 1999, p.79) common to analog formats.
The sudden abundance of bandwidth leads to an explosion of channel outlets, metamorphosing the television industry structure. The interactive function of digital television is yet another benefit of the efficient use of bandwidth. A broadened bandwidth not only increases the volume of channels and the velocity of information but also enables “two-way” traffic. With expanded two-way interactions between sender and receiver, digital television could transform the modality of broadcasting from a linear, unilateral communication to a cyclical, bilateral one.
Apparently, the level of control for the user is strictly limited by the choices provided by the software programmer. However, the interactivity of television will incrementally open new modes of socio-economic
In fact, critics and viewers have already become disillusioned by the promise of channel multiplication, for it has impoverished, rather than improved, the program quality and originality in a way similar to what cable television did in the U. S. Likewise, the interactive functions of digital television could turn into a blight rather than a blessing. Tony Feldman (1997) posits that interactivity “runs the risk of giving the users so much power in determining their own experiences of content that the only message conveyed is the one the user chooses to receive.
The freedom to chart your own course, therefore, can emasculate as readily as it can liberate” (p. 18). Development of HDTV The question of high definition television came up in the early 1970’s when Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, raised the possibility of HDTV. The technology was first developed by the Japanese to produce a better quality picture than previously available, and in 1978 NHK came up with two new HDTV systems. One of them was an 1,125 line system, the other a 2,125 line system that was transmitted by satellite (Fisher & Fisher, 1996).
Japan started the HDTV movement in 1970 and spent over one billion dollars on its development by mid-1990 (Dupagne & Seel, 1998). In the early 1970’s the major players in the effort to produce HDTV were Sony Pictures, Panasonic, Ikegami, and NHK. Most of the engineering was undertaken by Sony and NHK tested the concept over the air. Panasonic and Ikegami (along with Sony) developed cameras, video tape recorders and other equipment needed for an entire HDTV package. Philips, the Dutch equipment manufacturer, developed a new HDTV system called Eureka in the early 1970’s.
The system scanned 1,250 horizontal lines at 50 frames per second, with the same 16 to 9 aspect ratio as the Japanese system. This system was sometimes referred to as Vision 1,250 (Gross, 2000). The American television industry was finally waking up and coming out of the doldrums it had been in since the early 1970’s. The Japanese production had already taken over television, VCR’s, and the stereo business. It looked as if they would also become world-leaders in the development of HDTV (Fisher and Fisher, 1996).
The US was behind in the development of HDTV over Europe and Japan. The Defense Department pledged to spend $30 million dollars on the technology. The Defense Department sanctioned the spending of this money partly because the superior picture quality would have application for military reconnaissance and pilot training (Hart, 2004). The House Telecommunications Subcommittee held a hearing with the intent to insure that this new technology would flourish in the United States (Gross, 2000).
The electronics industry is in a high stakes race. A 1989 government report stated that the United States stood a chance to lose 2 million jobs, and suffer a $225 billion dollar annual trade deficit by the year 2010 if the US does not produce a coherent strategy to compete in the HDTV and associated industries (Dupagne & Seel, 1998). During the Reagan era an industrial consortium known as “Sematech” wanted to push the United States to become the leading technological manufacturer of the computer chip. This chip is used in HDTV.
Chipmakers are of vital importance to the overall well being of the electronics industry. They represent the USA’s largest manufacturing business, with revenues for 1989 of $300 billion dollars. This is a business that is larger than the steel industry, aerospace, and the automobile industry combined (Dupagne & Seel, 1998). The American Electronics Association (AEA) wanted funds in US government loans, grants and loan guarantees to further produce and improve HDTV. They felt once the government committed itself that deeply it could not pull out (Hart, 2004).
The AEA’s attempt to persuade the government to enter into a government-industry consortium failed. It was an ambitious program to form a consortium to develop the next-generation of HDTV sets. The plan attracted only nominal support in Congress. The Bush administration actively opposed the idea. It received vocal support from the industry but no financial commitments (Hart, 2004). The Bush administration wanted to pull the plug on the high-tech industries. Washington was determined to cut the $10 million dollars pledged for research and development of HDTV in 1989.
It also wanted to cut all federal support including the $100 million dollars it pledged for research and development in 1991. The Japanese manufacturers of semiconductors are encouraged by their government to spend 50 percent more on research and development of the chip. This is often subsidized by the Japanese government. This is more money spent on chip development than its US counterpart (Hart, 2004). In 1977 the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) formed a study group to investigate HDTV in the United States.
As early as 1973 an 1,125 scanning line HDTV system was shown to engineers with CBS supporting the system. By 1980 SMPTE recommended using a system of about 1,100 scanning lines per frame and an interlace system (Fisher & Fisher, 1996). Since the US decided to take the lead in HDTV development the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sponsored the movement by creating “The Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service” (ACATS). This was headed by former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley (Schreiber, 1999). ACATS declared an open competition to help create a usable HD service for the US.
The FCC requested those involved with this project to submit their proposals to the FCC for approval. Shortly after that 23 proposals were turned in to the FCC. All of them were in analog format (Schreiber, 1999). Many of the inventors felt that digital would not become available until the 21st century. Also many broadcasters were not interested in creating a new system that was not compatible with their existing system, since that would require them to invest heavily to create a new market form (Fisher and Fisher, 1996). CBS was the first network to actively pursue HDTV (Hart, 2004).
This was unusual since at that time the broadcast networks had less money to invest in high cost programming. In part some of this was due as a result of the viewing audiences shifting over from the broadcast networks’ programming to the cable stations. The loss of viewers to home VCR playback and rental movies, satellite delivery of Direct-TV, DBS and pay cable services also accounted for viewer erosion (Hart, 2004). In 1981 the Japanese company NHK was prodded by CBS to come to the United States to demonstrate their HDTV system.
Members of CBS and SMPTE met with the Japanese in San Francisco, California, at the St. Francis Hotel at an annual television conference. The demonstration was very successful. The viewers were impressed with the NHK’s system’s “extraordinary resolution, rich saturated color and wide screen monitors and projection television displays (Hart, 2004, p. 92). ” The general feeling of the people attending the conference was that the HDTV system broke all constraints of television picture quality imposed on them by the aging NTSC color standard.
In 1983, based on what they saw at the conference, the Advanced Television System Committee (ATSC) was formed. Their goal was to improve the quality of video and develop new standards in technology. They were also instructed to come up with a recommendation for a usable HDTV standard for the United States by the spring of 1985. They were to present this standard to a subcommittee of the International Consultative Radio Committee (CCIR) which would set a world standard (Hart, 2004). The ATSC is a committee largely made up of engineers. In 1984 it had a yearly budget of $250,000.
They decided to work on three parallel ideas to help improve the overall picture performance of US television. One group called the “improved NTSC” group headed by RCA Laboratories’ Kern Powers, worked to improve the present standard by improving studio and transmission equipment and the television receivers. Another group called the “enhanced group” investigated new production and transmission systems that still used the 525 scanning lines and a 4 to 3 aspect ratio. They also sought to produce a better picture through different signal formats (Fisher & Fisher, 1996).
The third group worked on HDTV at the CBS Technology Center and closely examined the Japanese NHK type of HDTV. This system would produce twice as many horizontal and vertical scanning lines as the NTSC system and would have an aspect ratio of 5 to 3 (Fisher & Fisher, 1996). Their goal was to have an HDTV standard that they could present to the FCC by the spring of 1985. Their standard would be compatible with NTSC, PAL and SECAM and they could transfer their video to 3 5 mm film for theatrical release (Dupagne & Seel, 1998).
By March of 1985 ATSC did have a standard they felt they could present to the FCC. They picked 1,125 scanning lines as their standard because it was a compromise between twice the 525 NTSC standard, which equals 1,050 and twice 625 lines (used in Europe) which is 1,250. The system would also have a two-to-one interlaced scanning, a 5 to 3 aspect ratio and scan at 80 fields per second. This scanning rate was the only source of controversy, since the NTSC used 60 per second and most of Europe used 50 per second (Fisher & Fisher, 1996).
The Europeans felt it could not be used by them because conversion could not take place without some degradation of picture quality. The Japanese approved of it since most of their experiments were conducted in a 60 field per second rate (Hart, 2004). By January of 1988 the ATSC voted on an HDTV system of 1,125 scanning lines, 60 hertz HDTV, 16 to 9 aspect ratio production standard. The vote approved of this standard 26 for and 11 against, with 8 abstaining. The Association of Maximum Service Telecasters (AMST) and the National Association of Broadcasters voted against the new standard (Dupagne & Seel, 1998).
Late in 1987 the FCC steering committee submitted a list of five proposed guidelines in which to raise, or solicit, the funds from the participating companies involved with the development of HDTV. The most important guideline of the proposal was that “no one source contributes more than 15 per cent of the total, private funds raised,” according to the FCC (Hart, 1994, p. 216). In 1989 the American Electronics Association predicted that HDTV would reach the mass market by 1999 and that it would take until the year 2002 to reach 10 percent market penetration.
They stated that HDTV would be megapixel, doubling the horizontal and vertical resolution of present television, with around 1,200 scanning lines by about 800 points across and close to a million pixels per screen. It was believed at this time that early HDTV sets would be expensive, large, projection TV’s that would find their way into sports bars before they are accepted in private homes (Helliwell, 1989). It was the dawn of the digital age. “The leap from analog to digital could be as striking as that from black and white to color. ” (Dupagne & Seel, 1998, p. 67).
By 1990 General Instrument Corporation claimed it had perfected the first all-digital method of transmitting an HDTV signal that would be compatible with conventional broadcast channels. That year the FCC announced that it would select the new United States HDTV standard after extensive testing from applicants from six systems including European, Japanese and American companies (Hart, 2004). On May 24, 1993 the “Grand Alliance” was formed. The four leading pioneers of USA’s quest for a high definition picture joined forces. General Instruments-DSRC, AT+T/Zenith, Thomson/Philips, and MIT were the companies that formed this alliance.
The purpose of the Grand Alliance was to combine the various parts of their four separate systems into one complete system. This way they would produce a single, all-digital HDTV transmission system. The four HDTV systems that each company produced separately (before the alliance) had a good picture in a 6 Mhz channel, but none of them were deemed good enough to be considered the single acceptable standard (Dupagne & Seel, 1998). The new Grand Alliance systems comprised 1080 active scanning lines with 1920 pixels per line, interlaced at 59.94 and 60 fields per second, and a 720 active line with 1280 pixels per line, progressive scanning at 59. 94 and 60 frames per second. Both formats operated in the progressive scanning mode at 30 and 24 frames per second.
The system used MPEG-2 video compression and transport systems and Dolby AC-3, 384 Kb/8 audio. It also used the 8-VSB transmission system developed by Zenith. This system was overwhelmingly approved by the ATSC membership. The old analog NTSC television will someday cease to exists as we know it. In its place high quality digital TV and HDTV will capture a larger and larger share of the market (Dupagne & Seel, 1998).
The ATSC believed that its HDTV standard would rule the land-based-over-the-air broadcast not only in the United States but in the northern hemisphere, and even in a few Asian countries as well. Europe, Japan and Australia are going to have a different HDTV standard from the USA. America’s standard uses an eight-level vestigial sideband (8-VSB) 6- Mhz modulation for its over-the-air transmission. The European, Japanese, and Australian systems use an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) system (Strassberg, 1998). But politics intervened and a world wide standard was not to be.
Different parts of the world will all have their own high definition standards. All the different formats will have more scanning lines than the present NTSC system, but they will not have the same number of scanning lines as each other. Therefore, conversion will be necessary between each country’s systems (Hart, 2004). When the people involved in trying to set up a standard for HDTV moved from the chaotic to a more organized collaboration the marketing strategies did not keep pace with the development. There was a consensus among the manufacturers that HDTV would never happen, or at least it would be on a smaller scale than predicted.
In Japan their HDTV development was stunted because of a lack of attractive programming. In Europe HDTV was abandoned because there was no consensus among programmers, signal providers, and the public (Hart, 2004). Both Mexico and Canada have refused to sign off on the channel assignments granted to the US stations in bordering areas. This will lead to a clouding up of the signals in those parts of the states. Detroit had to delay its planned digital/HDTV delivery launch on November 1, 1998, because of signal mix-up (Stern, 1998). The Thompson Manufacturing Company emphasized that the success of HDTV will largely depend on the broadcaster.
Though HDTV sets are being manufactured it will depend on the number of hours of high definition signal that is being transmitted out there, to pull the audience to the television screen (Hart, 2004). . The FCC and HDTV By 1990 the FCC decided that the HDTV signal would have to fit into one channel. The Japanese were suggesting that the US use their MUSE (Multiple Sub-Nyguist Encoding) system. This system would use one channel for the picture and another channel with information to boost it to HDTV level (Schreiber, 1999). By Congressional order the FCC has assigned a second TV channel to each of the nations 1,600 television stations.
Each of these stations will now be able to offer digital signal service to the public. It will be up to the broadcasters as to what kinds of services to offer and in what format they wish to transmit in (Hart, 2004). Originally then FCC Chairman, Reed Hundt, wanted to auction off the HDTV channels. The proposal for this auction was then introduced to Congress by Senate Majority Leader, Bob Dole. But, heavy lobbying by the broadcasters quickly killed the bill (Schreiber, 1999). Regulators were considering adding 30 Mhz, or channels 2 to 6, to the spectrum that broadcasters will be using when the shift to digital TV is completed.
By the year 2002 the analog channels will be returned to the government. The FCC will then auction these returned channels off to prospective buyers. Congress and the White House expected this auction to raise somewhere around $5. 4 billion dollars. If broadcasters are given this additional 30 Mhz this would set the FCC back by about $2 billion dollars (Schreiber, 1999). When the analog channels are no longer in use by the broadcasters and they are auctioned off, they will be used for non-broadcast use such as mobile phones, two-way paging, and wireless Internet access (Schreiber, 1999).
The broadcasters will transmit both the existing NTSC analog signal on one channel and the new HDTV signal on another channel. This way the existing analog TV sets will not be rendered useless immediately. The FCC adopted this simulcast plan where each existing television station would be assigned a second 6-Mhz channel for the analog TV and a channel for HDTV service (Schreiber, 1999). On Thursday April 3, 1997, the FCC approved by 4 to zero the biggest advance to broadcasters since the 1950’s when color was introduced to television.
The government announced that it was giving away to broadcasters free air-space. Critics of the FCC felt that giving this free air-space, without having the stations pay for it, was the biggest government give away of the century. To the 1,600 stations in this country this is an estimated $70 billion dollar gift of free channels (Schreiber, 1999). To create the necessary channels needed for HDTV the spectrum space was taken from UHF stations of channels 14 or higher. The government has had a history of setting aside unused channels in the past for the broadcasters.
The government will be taking these channels back and making them available to fire, police, rescue, and other public safety groups (Schreiber, 1999). By November 1, 1998 the FCC ruled that the networks must begin to broadcast a digital signal. At first only the top 10 markets will get any of the new ATSC digital signals. Only about 5 hours of broadcast high definition signal will be available. The stations will be free to broadcast as little, or as much HDTV signal as they deem possible. By 1998 the first true high definition television sets were available for sale on the open market (Hart, 2004).
The roots of HDTV lie in a 1996 decision by the FCC to require broadcasters to transmit two signals, one in analog (NTSC) and one in digital. The FCC required that broadcasters continue broadcasting the analog signal until the year 2006, although the deadline can be extended if digital grows too slowly in popularity. The FCC gave each TV station a second broadcast channel for digital signals used for the new HDTV programming (Schreiber, 1999). There has been some indication that the HDTV signal does not work as well as it was predicted, or promised, to work.
The November 1, 1998 launch date for HD signal was to deliver crystal clear images and CD-quality sound. And it did, but only 40 percent of the time. After a test in Washington, DC, in 1998 it was found that a majority of the time the televisions using indoor antennas could not display a high definition image. It was an all or nothing at all thing with over-the-air digital signals. Test results stated that with terrestrial transmission, broadcasters and set manufacturers will be even more reliant on cable operators to reach their potential viewers (Schreiber, 1999).
For someone who sets up their HDTV receiver during the winter months when the leaves are off the trees, there are some who did not receive a signal in the spring when the new leaves appeared. Often the first time a potential customer views an HD television set they have to become accustomed to some surprising effects. As a result of the image compression techniques that are used to squeeze such a high-resolution picture into a 6 Mhz channel there are no noticeable defects in the picture until there is motion on the screen.
The motionless backgrounds appear in stunningly clear detail, but when an object moves the picture momentarily blurs and develops a “block like” image around the moving object (Strassberg, 1998). The bugs are still being worked out, but as it stands the first person to purchase a high definition TV set will not be sure it will work with an antenna, and they won’t be able to connect to cable (Strassberg, 1998). Industrial Policy, Politics and HDTV In October 1988, the American Electronics Association (AEA) released a report forecasting the effect of HDTV on the U. S. economy and technological prowess.
This report heightened fears of foreign threats to the domestic consumer electronics industry. A string of Congressional hearings followed. In May 1989, the AEA issued a second report, which included a recommendation for $1. 35 billion in government assistance (Hart, 2004, pp. 157-9). This was necessary, argued the report, to make American companies competitive with their international competitors. The resulting political fall out could have hardly been anticipated. The second AEA report was the proverbial “last straw” in a very heated ideological battle over American industrial policy.
One side of the argument feared that U.S. firms were unfairly disadvantaged against international competition because many foreign companies enjoyed generous subsidies from their governments, which often had much more cohesive industrial policies than that of the U. S. The other side argued that the best way to ensure American success could only be accomplished through the competitive process of a free market, which is what drove the American innovative spirit—not government mandates and funding. These differing positions were soon became part of a political battle between Capitol Hill and the Bush Administration (Bingham, 1998).
The position of the latter was influenced by a stand against industrial policy taken by Bush during a campaign speech, where he declared, “I oppose the federal government’s picking of winners and losers in the private sector. That’s known as ‘industrial policy”‘ (Hart, 1994, p. 221). The debate had been percolating for some time. Just prior to the second AEA report, Senator Al Gore (D-Tenn. ) had been the most recent of a list of legislators to introduce yet another bill designed to spur HDTV development and push the Whitehouse towards a more proactive domestic industrial policy.
The bill was motivated in part by Gore’s unhappiness with Secretary Mosbacher, who had refused to attend a hearing by his Science Subcommittee (Bingham, 1998). Not all within the industry favored the Congressional push for government assistance. The Electronic Industries Association (EIA), whose members—unlike the AEA—included foreign owned companies as well as U. S. companies did not support government subsidization for fear they might not get a piece of the proverbial pie (Bingham, 1998). Philips and Thompson lobbied vigorously against this legislation.
They argued that their system shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage just because they were European companies. After all, their American subsidiaries provided American jobs just like their American owned counterparts, and their system, if chosen, would benefit the American public just like the other systems (Hart, 2004). This illustrates the problematic nature of industrial policy: provided you do decide that it is even in America’s best interest to subsidize companies, how do you then rationalize subsidizing those very competitors all over again?
Yet, if you do subsidize U.S. and not foreign owned companies, you still risk disadvantaging American workers (Bingham, 1998). As a consequence of the political battle over industrial policy, the Bush Administration developed an anti-HDTV policy. Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, who had initially supported the promotion of a strong HDTV policy, became a critic of such policies as a result of the political fallout. In one Congressional hearing, he criticized the industry for holding back research in hopes that it might get funding from the government (Hart, 1994, pp.221-222).
The second AEA report came at the climax of the battle. A focal point of the battle was DARPA, which had begun an initiative to fund HDTV technology in the public sector for “dual use” purposes (i. e. encourage technologies that provide significant benefits to both the defense and civilian sectors) (Bingham, 1998, p. 110). By the end of May, the White House had ordered a halt to pro HDTV industrial policies, and Craig Fields, a vocal supporter of DoD funded HDTV development, would eventually be dismissed in April of 1990.
Interestingly, in the midst of all this fallout, Al Sikes, former head of the NTIA and a big proponent of HDTV, became the new Chairman of the FCC in August of 1989. However, the nomination had actually been submitted before the political battle over HDTV had escalated (Dupagne & Seel, 1998, p. 184). The introduction of digital helped alleviate the conflicting goals of progress versus compatibility, by offering an option so significantly advanced that it superseded the goal of compatibility.
The conflicting goals reflect the much broader conflict between the FCC’s dual mandates to promote and police. It is interesting to keep in mind, however, that new technology was not the only factor in this move. After all, the FCC actually chose to pursue an HDTV approach vis-a-vis a more compatible EDTV approach at least two months before, GI revealed its digital system (Hart, 2004). It might be very easy to lay the problems of adoption that have resulted from choosing a digital system, which was not compatible to NTSC, at the feet of the FCC.
We could speculate that commissioners were unable to grasp the complexities and significance economic principles or the staff was to rigid in its thinking to find a truly innovative solution to the problems already discussed. However, the fact remains that the move towards DTV was also made by industry participants. The FCC could not force manufacturers to propose a system they did not want (Hart, 2004). Once full digital HDTV had been achieved, many manufacturers voluntarily scrapped their analog systems in order to pursue digital systems. In making this choice proponents were at the mercy of economic forces beyond their control.
They could not afford not to choose a digital system following GI’s breakthrough: the risk that the public and officials would perceive such systems as technologically inferior was too great. Digital threatened the successful adoption of any analog system, regardless of the outcome of the contest. In the end the analog systems failed to compete adequately with the digital systems anyway (Hart, 2004). Conclusion Now era of analog broadcast television in the United States will end as the nation completes its transition to an all-digital system, which is set on February 17, 2009 (dtv.com).
The veneration of HDTV as the single source of spectacular televisual experience and as the epitome of digital television is a necessary mythology for the joint endeavor of the broadcasting industry, HDTV manufacturers, and the MPT to move digital broadcasting in the world forward. HDTV is, by definition, a specific type of television receiver that provides higher resolution than the NTSC standard by way of compressing, storing, and delivering a greater amount of image and sound information than previous transmission systems.
There are a number of competing HDTV standards, and unlike common mis/conceptions, not all HD televisions are digital. Nor does the digital HDTV necessarily guarantee a better audio-visual fidelity than the analog HDTV. Additionally, HDTV is not the sole foundation of the audio-visual grandeur of the digital television system. Technically, not all HDTV can assist or accommodate diverse functions (e. g. , interactivity) that the digital broadcasting service would normally offer. Nor can all digital television receivers, likewise, convey as good a picture quality as a HDTV would proffer.
As the digitalization of broadcasting became an irreversible national policy of U. S. in 1990s, electronics companies tended to blend the two technical specifications, manufacturing only digital HDTV sets. And as the digital HDTV becoming a norm in the industry, digital television and HDTV are often used interchangeably, regardless of their technical and conceptual differences. Digital TV alone could enhance audio-visual quality to a considerable degree, since it involves no mediation of transmission towers or ground cables, thereby decreasing the chance for the deterioration of broadcast signals.
Accurate or erroneous, the adoration of HDTV as the end-all and be-all of visual excellence would place the entire edifice of digital broadcasting in U. S. on a pedestal. More specifically, it is expected to have a dramatic impact on the viewer’s awareness of digital broadcasting, and consequently, adoption of more advanced, multifunctional digital TV sets. As the audience is exposed to the crisp, vivid images of HDTV, they will see a compelling reason to switch to digital broadcasting. A wide and speedy diffusion of digital HDTV is a prerequisite for the energetic growth of digital broadcasting and a barometer to measure such growth.
Second, digital HDTV sets are considered an axial item for the reinvigoration of U. S. ‘s economy led by the three engines: the AV equipment industry, electronics manufacturing, and online business. With many years of rigorous R&D endeavors, U. S. begin to claims its share of the global HDTV and associated A-V equipment market. HDTV is no longer a plain “household appliance” but a core IT technology, equipped with cutting-edge apparatuses, ranging from memory chips, mobile transmitters, and LCD, PLP monitors, to various paraphernalia that enable interoperability with other digital devices.
Conclusively, odd it may sound, U. S. ‘s development of HDTV is infused with what might be called “techno-nationalism” that has intensified throughout its competition with the Japan for economic and technological supremacy. The four-decade long endeavor of promoting HDTV as the global standard has been at once a medium and a theater of the techno-economic contest between the two techno-egos. HDTV is, after all, as much a political game as a business matter; as culturally intense a project as a technology-intensive battle.
But this battle is not over. As the latest news report, “the electronic company Sony will debut a flat-screen t flat-screen television powered by organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) that require less power and space. The OLEDs result in a television picture with stronger colors and a faster response time in pixels. The television will be introduced in Japan but will not be available in the U. S. for several years. ” (Berhie, 2007)