....LMB: "I (Don't) Want My DTV!"....

September 24, 2002

It's always fun to watch political folks flip-flop, lie, or otherwise try to reconcile two policies they support which exactly contradict each other. While FCC chair Michael Powell talks a good game about letting the market rule the airwaves, the FCC has recently mandated that all new televisions come equipped with digital tuners by 2007. Digital tuners will be for DTV signals, that allegedly will have better picture and all that. It'll also add around $250 to the cost of each television set.

But wait, there's more!

House Representative Billy Tauzin (who is firmly in the entertainment industry's pocket) has proposed a DTV bill to Congress that would eliminate all analog TV broadcasts by 2007. Meaning that if you want to watch television in 2007, you will have to go out and buy a brand new DTV. And if you want to videotape anything off the television, you will need to go out and buy a new DTV-compatible VCR.

Is the quality of DTV that much higher? No. Prof. Russ Neuman of the Annenberg School for Communication did a study several years ago where he set two televisions at one end of a room, one DTV one regular TV. He had people come in at what would be regular viewing distance, and see if they could tell which was which. For the most part, they couldn't.

(I wish I had documentation for the above, but I don't. Neuman was a professor of mine when I attended ASC, and he described the experiment to us during a class lecture. I have been unable to find the report on the internet, but if I do, I'll will post the link here.)

But back to the legislation. Why is this happening? Is it just a big government giveaway to television and VCR manufacturers, to give them a big sales boost come 2007? Perhaps, but there's more to it than that.

It's called a "broadcast flag". It's a small code that can be embedded into a DTV signal that prevents your home VCR from recording a program, and/or sending it to your friends over the internet. Tauzin's vision of DTV makes wide use of broadcast flags.

So that's it. The TV and movie industry, afraid they won't get your dollars because you might conceivably record their programming off the television, have bought legislators to tell you that you have to spend extra money on a new television and new VCR that will actually limit your viewing options. Fuckers.

For more detail, you can read this report from the Consumer Federation of America.

Posted by Jake at 11:11 AM

The TV broadcasters were given radio spectrum for digital TV with the understanding that they would lose their analog channels at a specific date in the future. The frequencies now occupied by analog TV channels are to be reallocated to other uses. Analog TV was originally supposed to be eliminated as of 2004 (I believe), when the broadcasters started dragging their feet this was extended to 2006, now it's been extended again to 2007.

The switchover to digital TV is not about improving the image quality (although there are improvements in areas with poor reception), it is mostly about improving the use of the available spectrum. Four standard definition DTV programs, or a single high definition program, can be broadcast in the frequency space that was required for a single analog TV channel.

Posted by: Marc Ramsey at September 24, 2002 04:22 PM
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November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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