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abgesehen von aol/TW werden die amerikanischen digitalisierungsbestrebungen nun endg├╝ltig ernst, obwohl ein bischen dauern wird es schon noch bis es soweit ist.






January 11, 2001
Gov`t Weighing Steps on Digital TV



By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:10 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Digital television promises clearer pictures, more channels and new data services -- but it hasn`t yet delivered brisk sales.

The industries involved are all pointing fingers at one another. Now, the government is looking at stepping in to speed up the process.

Broadcasters say digital TV sets are too expensive and argue their digital programming must be offered immediately on cable systems to reach a wide audience. TV makers assert that broadcasters have not produced enough compelling content to make people want to buy digital TVs. And cable companies say carrying digital broadcast channels right now -- while they must still offer the same programming in analog format -- could force them to drop popular cable programs from their lineup.

The Federal Communications Commission, which has set a soft deadline of 2006 for the switch from analog to digital TV, is looking to resolve some of these disputes. The took the issue off the agenda for its meeting Thursday but is still expected to act on the matter as early as this week.

Broadcasters want the commission to require that all new TVs be capable of receiving digital signals, saying this would give them a large enough audience to spur the development of new digital programming. Currently, digital TV sets are sold separately and cost several thousand dollars.

Broadcasters are supposed to return their analog channels by 2006 or when digital television reaches 85 percent of the market -- whichever is later. In the interim, stations will have two channels-- one in digital and the other in analog format -- so people can still watch broadcast shows on their existing analog TVs.

``Reaching the 85 percent digital penetration level that Congress required before analog television broadcasting comes to an end will require that new receivers be capable of handling digital signals,`` Edward O. Fritts, the broadcast industry`s chief lobbyist, wrote commission members this month.

FCC Chairman William Kennard last year recommended that Congress order the agency to adopt a 2003 deadline by which all new TV sets can receive digital signals. TV makers argue that any requirement would limit choice by driving up prices.

``It`s an unnecessary tax on consumers,`` said Michael Petricone, vice president of technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Association. He said consumers already have a number of ways to upgrade to digital television, including integrated TV sets and special set-top boxes.

The FCC also plans to address another thorny question raised by broadcasters, who want both their analog and digital signals carried by cable companies during the transition.

Currently, cable operators are legally obligated to carry analog broadcast TV channels in their cable lineups. That ensures that cable customers can still see over-the-air programming -- like NBC or Fox -- they would normally receive for free.

Broadcasters say that during the move to digital, when they are sending out signals in analog and digital format, cable companies should pass through both of these to consumers. About two-thirds of Americans get their television signals via cable.

Cable companies say they don`t object to carrying digital signals, once broadcasters complete their conversion. But they argue that carrying both analog and digital channels on their systems would use up too much of their capacity and force them to knock some popular shows off their systems.

``We oppose having to carry duplicate versions of every broadcast station because it would come at the expense of cable programming network with a strong following,`` said Dave Beckwith of the National Cable Television Association.

Industry sources expect that the FCC won`t force cable operators to carry both broadcast signals. But the agency may grant a petition by a station in Stuart, Fla. -- which broadcasts only in digital -- to be carried in analog format on area cable systems.

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