TV Or Not TV - Embedded.com

TV Or Not TV

Once again the Feds have stepped in to “improve” our lives and wring even more money from besieged consumers. The New York Times reported that a new ruling requires vendors to add digital tuners to nearly every TV sold. The cost of perhaps $250 might double or even triple the price of a television.

The FCC stated that market forces are not driving consumers towards digital TV, and it has issued the ruling to induce consumers to make the switch. Let me get this straight: we don't want digital TV, and we've voted with our wallets to not buy digital TV. So the government's response is to ram it down our throats, drastically escalating the cost of even analog TV.

Clearly the appropriate government agency needs to bring 8 track and laserdiscs back. The fact that we don't want 'em is apparently irrelevant.

Just a few years ago this same agency planned to turn off analog broadcasts by 2005, but it had to retrench when it found that digital's market share was zero. This latest ruling seems yet another desperate attempt to drag reluctant consumers in an expensive and unwanted direction.

I object to these coercive methods, and I don't see how the limited benefits of a better picture outweigh the problems that come with the switch. Seems to me that doubling the price of the most common of all appliances will just make the poor poorer.

And what about the quarter billion working TV sets currently in use in the USA? When the FCC does flip the giant switch that disables analog broadcasts, these all become junk. Tossed into landfills. What an environmental nightmare!

The only clear winners will be Zenith and Thomson, both of whom hold patents on the technology and will rake in royalties. I suppose this is yet another tax transferring wealth directly to a couple of companies. Maybe the move will be good for our industry, since the embedded content of televisions will skyrocket. But only a relative few people will benefit.

Okay, I'm trying hard to find some good in this. Perhaps the increased cost of TVs will spell the decline of the couch potato. Maybe a parade of reformed TV zombies will march to the local libraries. Faulkner and Hemingway will be the subject of water cooler discussions, instead of South Park and soaps.

But that seems a reach.

In this season of appalling news about egregious corporate malfeasance and government sleaze, once again the rich get richer at the expense of consumers.

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. He founded two companies specializing in embedded systems. Contact him at . His website is .

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Reader Feedback

Jack…the funny thing is, it is not necessary to make ALL Tvs have that damn Digital Tuner. It is like ALL Tvs must have built-in VCR.All is needed is a Set-Top-Box that receives digital signals and provide appropriate output [RF on Ch.3/4, Composite video/Audio, S-video/Audio and/or RGB/(R-Y, B-Y, Y)] that can be connected to ANY existing analog TV set.This will be no different than one connects his/her VCR to watch video tape.

Samsung, Thomson, Zenith/LG all makes such a STB. It costs about $500. The price will drop as volume picks up.So there is no need for FCC ruling except some political aspects, I do not understand.As you say Consumer will vote with their wallet, if the digital TV is good.But these days, consumers like sheep, and Govt can shove anything down their throat…and we cannot do anything about it!

CB Patel
Semi-retired TV/DTV Engineer


You'll have to research all the details, my numbers could be off a little since I'm doing this from memory of the few articles I've read on the subject.

-The government wants some of the spectrum currently used by broadcast TV for the myriad of new wireless technolgies that are looking for spectrum. They have set a schedule giving the industry 10(?) years to make the transition to digital. They aren't happy with the progress so they are trying to speed things along.

-We have a chicken/egg type problem here. Consumers don't want digital right now because there isn't enough content. Broadcasters are spending tons of money upgrading their equipment but they get no revenue.

-It might cost $250 to add a digital TV tuner right now, it won't be that much when they mass manufacture them into every TV.

-TV's <13" are="" exempt="" from="" this.="" between="" 13="" and="" 27"(?)="" they="" have="" until="" 2007(?).="" for="" tv's="" over="" 27"="" they="" want="" the="" digital="" tuners="" by="" 2005(?).="" so="" the="" cheaper/smaller="" sets="" can="" benefit="" from="" the="" earlier="" introduction="" on="" larger/expensive="" sets.="">

-If the they were smart, they would make these new tuners work with the new digital ATSC standard, DirectTV/Dish/EchoStar, and the cable companies which are transitioning to digital. With digital compression they can broadcast at least 4x as many channels which everyone should be happy about.

-All TV's don't become obsolete with this ruling, you can add an external digital tuner to any set. The only external digital tuners available today are for DirecTV/Dish, or they are HDTV… so they are rather expensive. Actually you can get DirecTV boxes for $50 I think. Don't want an external box, what if they put a hard disk recorder into it? So now you get a digital tuner and a digital VCR.

Kevin Werner


Once again, Jack, you hit the nail right on the head. I find it depressinghow much the government continues to intrude into people's lives, as if theyare the only ones with a clue. Governments in general, including ours, haveshown themselves to be quite short on morality and business acumen, yet theykeep enacting laws that they use these labels to sell.

It's bad enough they take over 50% of peoples income in some form of taxalready when you include property tax, sales, tax, etc. Then they pass lawssuch as these to redirect your purchase decisions, which as you said, isreally just another form of a hidden tax. They pass laws that the market(a.k.a., people) rejects, so then they have to pass more laws to compensate,and then more. I could list several examples, but this email is politicalenough. As a result, we have tons of laws that accomplish very little, butrequire a huge tax to enforce.

If people want digital TV, they'll buy it. Why is it so important for thisdevelopment to happen at all? If people don't want it, they shouldn't haveto pay for it. Did Zenith really contribute that much money to the rightcampaigns?

I long for a day when our government is a small fraction of its currentsize, with a commensurate tax burden. Stop redirecting wealth to a selectfew companies, and let everyone compete for people's wallets. Unfortunately,I don't think this will happen. Like anyone else, government people won'twilling give up their jobs. Heaven forbid they had to work in a marketeconomy where you have to produce something to get ahead, and not just dreamup new ways of forcibly taking money out of the pockets of others.

Robert Weber


Jack,

It's not that I don't want a digital TV receiver, I'd love to use one – but I can't. Building covenants prevent me from putting up an outside broadcast TV antenna, an indoor antenna won't work where I live, and a digital TV won't receive anything digital provided by my cable company, Comcast. But the FCC can't force the cable companies away from their proprietary digital schemes to an open one. And neither can I, alone. But if lots of us consumers get digital sets foisted upon us, maybe we'll learn to band together to scream at the cable company, and maybe get a digital channel or two.

Perhaps the FCC should also consider requiring Set-Top-Boxes to also provide an ATSC compatible baseband stream to feed all those new digital TVs??? OOPS, I forgot, there IS NO STANDARD connection for a baseband digital stream that might be hooked to a TV!!!! I think I agree with you, our congress F***ed this up royally, and try at they might, the FCC can't seem to fix it either.

Robert P. LaJeunesse
Senior Design Engineer
Lectronix


No interest in digital TV, not now, not ever. And sincemuch TV signal transmission these days is over privatecabling not “public” airwavesthe FCC should NOT have anysay in how it proceeds.

Kevin G. Rhoads

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