Digital TV Could Bring Unpleasant Surprises

The television industry says it's on track to switch to all-digital TV. But the chair of a powerful House committee wants it to hasten the conversion, and to protect consumers from shouldering the costs of the move--which may include built-in copy controls.

Television broadcasters are required to switch to digital, copy-protected signals by January 1, 2007. When this happens, more than 300 million televisions and VCRs will be useless.

Broadcasters, cable companies, manufacturers, and consumers on Wednesday commented on a draft proposal for what Congress and the Federal Communication Commission could do to make a smooth transition to digital television. They spoke before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's telecommunications subcommittee.

The draft being considered by the House subcommittee also lays the groundwork for "broadcast flag" content protection. Broadcasters would send their video encoded with a security "flag" that would prevent customers from taping a program on one system and moving it to another for viewing. The FCC should require all digital devices to contain such copy controls by January 1, 2006, according to the subcommittee's draft recommendation.

The issue of copy controls was not a focus among the testimony, however, which dealt more with the timeline for the switch. "This transition has been underway for over ten years and we are not as far along as we need to be," said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Louisiana, who chairs the committee.

News source: PCWorld - Digital TV Could Bring Unpleasant Surprises

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