Responding to Defense Dependence: Policy Ideas and the American Defense Industrial Base

By Erik R. Pages | Go to book overview
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7
HDTV: A Strategic Industry at Risk?

Undeterred by the failure of the ball bearing and other sectors and emboldened by the example of Sematech, other industries began to emphasize their strategic nature. Pronuinent among these was the U.S. consumer electronics industry, especially those firms interested in high-definition television, better known as HDTV. As the Bush administration entered office in 1989, HDTV advocates were ready, touting HDTV as a strategic industry that could help restore American dominance in consumer electronics.

This initiative provoked a heated public policy debate 1 much more intense than that found in our other case studies. It appeared for a short time that HDTV advocates might succeed in creating a mini-industrial policy for this sector. Indeed, both the Commerce Department and DARPA originally approved such ail effort. In the end, however, a closer analysis of the industry and the case for intervention revealed a sector of limited strategic importance on both commercial and national security grounds. This analysis doorned HDTV to defeat.


WHAT IS HDTV?

HDTV is not simply better television. 2 HDTV does provide a better television picture comparable to a movie and twice as clear as conventional televisions, but HDTV also lies at the heart of the next generation in communications technology. Combined with other technologies such as computers and interactive video, HDTV could serve as a vital link in the creation of a whole range of new information services.

The potential market for HDTV was considered huge. Forecasts in the late 1980s projected U.S. sales of HDTVs at ten to fifteen million sets annually within fifteen years. By 2003, the projected market value of HDTV ranged between $5 billion and $12 billion. 3 A report prepared for the National Telecommunications and Information

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