Digital TV Still Facing Hurdles

By Glanz, William | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Digital TV Still Facing Hurdles


Glanz, William, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: William Glanz

Retail sales of digital televisions eclipsed 1 million this year, nearly three years after the first one sold at a San Diego electronics store in 1998.

While the industry considers that a significant milestone, other hurdles are preventing consumers from embracing a technology that promises a picture far better than the analog signal broadcasters beam to televisions now.

Lack of content, the cost of the televisions and the absence of digital programming from local broadcasters on cable-television systems all have stunted digital television's growth, panelists said yesterday at a summit on digital television sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association.

"I think there has to be more vision and leadership on the part of industry and the government," telecommunications lawyer and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Richard Wiley said.

The FCC has set a deadline of May 2002 for commercial stations to make the switch from analog to digital television. Noncommercial stations have an additional year to meet the deadline.

No commercial stations have filed a waiver seeking an extension of the deadline, but it is not clear whether they have time to make the conversion to digital. Just 201 of 1,600 commercial stations have made the investment that allows them to send signals digitally. They will spend a combined $16 billion on the transition, National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton said.

Six D.C. stations and five Baltimore stations are sending both analog and digital signals.

While some broadcasters can transmit digital signals now, they have difficulty getting it to consumers because local broadcasters and cable companies have not reached an agreement to put digital signals on cable systems. That is significant because 67 percent of American households subscribe to cable television.

Broadcasters want the FCC to step in and require cable companies to carry digital and analog signals.

Cable operators are legally obligated only to carry analog channels on cable lineups.

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