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Will Proposed HDTV “Flag” Make Your DSS/Cable Receiver Obsolete in 2005? Print E-mail
Friday, 27 February 2004
Recent reports say the FCC is considering flagging HDTV signals in order to protect against users recording them at their high-resolution native resolutions. This comes as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is lobbying the FCC aggressively so that Hollywood’s best movies and TV programs are not easily recorded and duplicated at HDTV resolutions.

While the FCC has not agreed to this flagging yet, fears of such a technological change have held up the much-anticipated launch of HDTV personal video recorders (PVRs). Over one year ago, Dish Network showed a PVR that could record HDTV at the CES trade show. They had the same black box at this year’s CES show just six weeks ago, yet none of the PVRs have been shipped to Dish Network consumers. The idea behind the flag is to digitally encrypt HDTV signals and transmit them through an HDMI digital connection. This is a very simple and useful solution moving forward. However, as one custom AV installer wondered recently, “What happens to all of the receivers currently installed that don’t have HDMI connections?” Basically, he was referring to each and every HDTV receiver currently on the market instantly being obsolete and potentially non-functional if flagging is adopted.

While consumer demand for HDTV gets stronger and stronger as the technology develops, this kind of technological setback could douse the enthusiasm of the most important early adopters of the new video format. Most officials in Washington appreciate hearing from mainstream citizens on topics of interest. FCC Chairman Michael Powell offers his email on the FCC website at mpowell @fcc.gov. You might want to send him your thoughts on HDTV and how you would like to see the FCC deal with the problem of protecting HDTV feeds from piracy while providing a useful and entertaining product to consumers.

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