Digital Television and the Law Term Paper

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The technological capabilities of digital television are enormous, and the future of digital television can be seen as being on par with web pages and compact disc technology, all through the television. The broadcasting standard, however, can be traced back to the time when analogous television was first introduced as a viable medium in the time of World War II. It was in 1940 that the NTSC - National Television Systems Committee decided to set certain standards for the broadcast of television signals. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The technology that was decided upon at that time still remains in the U.S.A. today, as for example in the 525-line low-resolution channel on which the Evening News is telecast everyday. However, even though this fact demonstrates that the U.S.A. was indeed a trendsetter, it is a sad fact that the U.S.A. is still entrenched in the same standards and is finding it difficult to adapt and change over to the newer technologies of today, and it was not until the 1980's that the need for change was realized, and the study of the digital television system, Advanced Television Technology or ATV as it was known at the time was undertaken. When numerous high definition television systems were tested, among them both analogous and digital, it was found that three was actually a surfeit of broadcasting signals, and if the new high definition pictures were to be viewed, then the entire system would have to be digital, because of the simple fact that the analogue system would need more bandwidth than was available.

In the year 1988, the FCC adapted a Tentative Decision and Further Notice of Enquiry about advanced television, and this policy was a herald of the future decision regarding digital television that it would take in the next few years. The general idea was to change all the viewers of analogue television into viewers of digital television, and to this effect it was decided that the existing broadcasters would be given an extra 6 MHz spectrum band so that digital broadcasters could transmit on these bands and analogous signals would be gradually discontinued from usage, when customers stopped watching analogous TV and moved onto digital TV. In 1997, a timeline was announced, by which all television broadcasters would have to start broadcasting digital television, and this rule was made to coincide with the sale of high definition television sets. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The Cable Act of 1992 specifies the provision that says 'must carry' and this provision may be applied to digital television too. The must carry rule specifies that digital operators must carry a one third capacity of digital television signals in addition to analogous television signals, and the high definition television broadcasters must also follow the 'system upgrade' option during the transition phase from analogous to digital. In addition, the 'phase-in' policy states that broadcasters must carry digital signals gradually and increase it every year, and they must also choose from the 'either/or' choice that states that a choice must be made whether they would broadcast analogous or digital signals in the transition phase. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The 'conditional access' technology that is a must for the era of digital television is what is generally known as 'Anti Piracy Encryption'. While it is true that the anti-piracy technology is sufficiently developed to handle misuse, the fact that the general market conditions will keep changing over the years as the broadcasters would be required to cope with the demand for better and more services as well as technological innovations. The conditional access policy is helpful in preventing piracy in the area of 'pay TV', where there is much scope for piracy. The only way in which to fight this illegal piracy is by strengthening encryption and authentication technologies so that the thief cannot copy 'subscriber smart cards' and thereby succeed in stealing the revenues of broadcasters. Unless strict measures are taken, the digital television broadcasters would suffer needless losses whereby illegal persons who have no authority to broadcast would be able to access broadcast programming. The conditional access system would not only protect those broadcasters whose livelihood depended on pay TV, but would also serve the purpose of enabling new avenues of revenue by way of pay-per-view films and interactive television to come in. (Anti-Piracy Measures in Digital and Interactive TV)

The Federal Communications Commission has given its approval for the issue of the all important 'broadcasting flag' for digital television. Imagine a scenario when a person has paid for his digital television connection and has also bought a new television set of high definition, and sits down to watch his favorite program. While he is enjoying it immensely, it is suddenly cut off and the screen becomes blank. Why did this happen? It was because the broadcaster had suddenly found out that the program had not been approved for telecasting and had therefore shut it off. This means that the control rests in the hands of the broadcaster and not in the hands of the person watching the program. (Broadcast Flag Kills Mickey Mouse)

Now that the FCC has placed the decision in the hands of the broadcaster and the broadcaster has embedded a 'flag' in their programming that would encourage the transition from analogous television to digital television, and also prevent any potential harm that may occur due to the free and 'over the air' broadcasting in the digital TV. One critic of the broadcasting flag states that now no programs can be recorded by anyone even if it is perfectly legal to record ones favorite programs from television. He says that all the good has been removed from TV and in its place is a program that costs more and does less. This may or may not be true but the broadcast flag was something of utmost importance and that was why the FCC stamped its approval on it. (FCC approves Broadcast flag for Digital Television)

However, the Personal Video Recorders that are fitted onto digital television sets allows one to record programs onto a hard disk, something akin to those found in the computer. The advantages are many: there is no need for rewinding and unwinding; it is possible to bring a live TV program to a pause, and the obvious advantage is that there is much more space on the personal video disk than on the traditional VHS cassette. (Hard Disk Video Recorders) it is sometimes argued that the Digital Rights Movement is a dire threat to fair use and to free speech as well as to privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is one of those groups that support the theory that digital television is indeed a threat to free speech, etc. In addition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation also stated that basic consumer rights were being threatened by the digital rights management technologies - DRM. This may be because of the fact that digital TV broadcasters generally restrict the use of digital files so that copyrights may be protected, but this becomes irritating to the general consumer. (Digital Rights Management and Privacy)

The digital television broadcasting market is filled with newer challenges day-to-day. The main challenge today is the delivery of multiple contents over a single connection. Some content may be composed of audio, some of video, and some of a combination of the two, and now there is interactive television also. All this makes the broadcasting of digital TV extremely challenging and a complex affair. What makes it more difficult is the fact that a single individual is expected to man hundreds of connections, a highly impossible task. The content must move from point to point in an organized manner, but mistakes may happen in the real world, and these have to be notified to the concerned persons immediately, or else, the entire system may fail. (Digital Television-New Challenges for Quality Control) the human eye is not fit to monitor the entire system and it is due to this reason that a system that would anticipate problems before they may arise has been created. This is referred to as 'preventative monitoring' and a large number of tools are available for this purpose. Therefore, the new challenges that are being faced by broadcasters of digital TV are being handled in an intelligent and practical manner and this makes the entire structure of the broadcasting network better. (Preventative Monitoring- a New Paradigm)

Current Laws and Mandates for digital television in the UK:…[continue]

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