Senin, 31 Desember 2007

Pitfalls on the Road to Digital TV (NewsFactor)

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, more than 50 percent of U.S. households now own a digital television -- a milestone that the industry trade groups president Gary Shapiro characterized as a "critical threshold" for the nation.

Whats more, an additional 32 million DTVs are now forecast to ship nationally during 2008, "with high definition expected to account for 79 percent of total DTV shipments in the U.S.," Shapiro explained.

However, the U.S. governments General Accountability Office (GAO) recently warned that no comprehensive plan is in place for tracking or measuring transition milestones. Having no plan raises concerns about whether consumers will have the information necessary to respond to the transition and to maintain access to TV programming, the GAO said.

"Only the FCC appears to be in a state of denial over what the GAO is telling us," FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein noted. "Rather than making excuses, we need to come up with solutions," including the establishment of an interagency task force, Adelstein said.


A comprehensive partnership between the public sector and the private sector should have accountability, clear lines of authority, and daily coordination at the highest levels, noted FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. "I agree with GAO that the FCC is in the best position to get the job done," Copps said. "But the hour is late -- very late."

Digital-to-analog conversion capabilities are included in all set-top boxes for cable and satellite TV reception -- the preferred reception mode used by 87 percent of U.S. households, which will be able to continue to view broadcast programming on analog TVs after the transition to digital. But the remaining 13 percent of U.S. households will not be so lucky.

These over-the-air reception households disproportionately represent low-income workers, the elderly, and minorities -- particularly those for whom English is a second language, the FCC noted. Once the transition to DTV begins, they will all need analog-to-digital conversion equipment to continue to receive over-the-air TV programs.

Congress has agreed to provide an initial amount of $990 million to subsidize a converter box program under which any American household will be able to request up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxes. Still, the GAO maintains that this conversion program will face several challenges, not the least of which is how best to inform consumers about their options.


Another major transition obstacle is the lack of any concerted effort to educate the general public about the technologys capabilities and limitations. "Too many consumers are confused about what television they want or what they are buying," said iSupplis principal analyst for television systems Riddhi Patel. "There are far too many acronyms, and while education at consumer electronics stores and by OEMs is improving, it is not at a level where consumers understand it all."

According to the research firms latest survey, 75 percent of those U.S. consumers who had recently bought a flat-panel TV said they believed they had purchased an HDTV-compatible model. Upon further investigation, however, most of the flat-panel displays they had purchased turned out to be lower-resolution TV sets.

"Some people are buying televisions they think are full-HD but arent," said Sonys vice president of television marketing Jeff Goldstein. "Some people believe they have full-HD programming but they dont. There is a learning curve out there that needs to be addressed."

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