Talk:Digital television in the United Kingdom

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Wikipedia Entry Digital Television in the USA

The Origins of Digital TV Digital television began in Japan with their development of high definition television (or HDTV) in the 1980’s. The development improved picture quality on TV. Japan first initiated HDTV broadcasts in 1992. However, the United States government wanted greatly to create their own American made HGTV broadcast technology. In fact, US manufacturers felt that is was imperative not to be reliant on Japan to supply the US with new HDTV broadcasts technologies, so US manufacturers stepped it up. In the book, Digital Cultures: Understanding New Media, the USA’s adoption of digital television, is described as the following: “With new digital technology-homegrown in Silicon Valley a much higher definition television picture could be produced, as good as or better than the Japanese MUSE technology that had started the whole thing off. By 1993, US manufacturers had come up with a strategic Grand Alliance standard, representing a technical compromise between the competing needs of different industry segments that could handle a variety of digital high-definition formats with varying degrees of resolution, pixel density, frame rates and scanning methods.” (Creeber and Martin :2009) The US Telecommunications Act of 1999 held a special place in the introduction of digital television into the United States. This act allowed for regional phone companies, long-distance phone carriers, and cable companies to enter each other’s markets. The Telecommunications Act enabled cable companies to offer triple play packages (also known as bundle packages). These packages often now include digital television, broadband internet, and telephone services.

The Benefits of Digital TV over Analog TV It is often written that digital television is better, than analogue television. But what makes a digital signal better than and analog signal? And how has the induction of digital television benefited individual television consumers in contrast to analogue television? A digital signal translates television images and sounds into a binary code of ones and zeros. An analog signal has defined levels of voltage. Digital television (or DTV) has many advantages over analog television. Some of these advantages include better image quality and high resolution. DTV signals require much less frequency space. This in turn makes the picture quality on a bigger newer flat screen TV better. In contrast, an analog signal is continuously variable (or continuously changing) as the voltage values move about in time. This is why older analog TV sets could not decode and display digital signals unless they are switched over to digital. In June 2009, the Federal Commerce Commission (or FCC) initiated the switch from analog TV to digital TV. This made older analog TV’s unusable for new digital cable and satellite broadcast. The exception came was when some consumers brought digital converter boxes for their older TV sets or brought new flat screen TV’s. In fact, in Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication it states: “To ensure that uninterrupted to free, over-the-air television did not pose a financial hardship for viewers, in January 2008 the government began issuing $40 gift cards (up to two per household) to consumers who needed to purchase digital converters…Although the government spent $2 billion on ads and gift cards to help with the conversion, about nine million households (out of fourteen million) were not ready and saw their TVs go blank.” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos: 2011)

Digital TV Broadcast Distribution Methods There are two main ways that digital television broadcast are usually distributed to people’s homes in the United States. The first is by using a digital cable provider such as Time Warner or Comcast. The second is by using a satellite dish provider such as DIRECTV or Echo Star’s Dish TV. Digital Cable works by a headend (or computerized nerve center) receiving long-distance signals to pick up local, independent, and national broadcast stations through a satellite dish attached to a fiber optic cable. These signals are then feed through trunk and feeder cables attached to utility poles. Cable companies rent space on these poles from phone and electric companies. Drop lines are then run the cable to subscribers’ homes on utility poles and digital cable consumers receive their digital TV using a cable converter box. Just as with digital cable satellite dish cable works by beaming a signal from a ground station up to a satellite in orbit. This satellite is geosynchronous, meaning it rotates at the same speed the earth rotates on its axis. In Digital Cultures: Understanding New Media it states: “Satellite television works by beaming signals from a ground station up to a satellite in geostationary orbit, 2,300 miles above the earth’s surface…. [The satellite signals are] just at the right point in the earth’s gravitational pull to rotate at the same speed as the earth, keeping them [the satellite’s signals] in a fixed position relative to points on the ground. (Creeber & Martin: 2009) The difference however lies in the dish. When you receive “dish cable” through a provider (such as DIRECTV or Dish TV) each cable consumer receives their own individual dish which is tested for signal strength during the time of installation.

“Signals are relayed by the satellite transponders operating in the KU band of frequencies back down to earth, where they are received by satellite dishes, placed either on individual roofs or balconies, or in a satellite array set up by companies who retransmit their signals in another form (like cable or broadcast).” (Creeber & Martin: 2009)

The Best Features of Digital TV There are three main features that American consumers can gain from having digital television (or DTV). Those three features are as follows: Digital Video Recorder (DVR), on demand, and increased network channels. The Digital Video Recorder (or as it’s commonly known as DVR) feature allows American DTV consumers to watch their favorite broadcast shows whenever they desire by placing by recording them for future viewing purposes. On Demand allows consumers to instantly watch different shows from different networks and movies using the “On Demand” button. For example, digital cable provider Time Warner Cable allows cable viewers to watch new American Idol episodes and new movies like Addicted. Additionally, satellite dish providers such as DIRECTV allow digital cable viewers to receive international channels. All digital television providers now offer more channels for their consumers nowadays. This is partially, due to the fact that TV stations can assign more channels to the same frequency and because of the satellites linking the nation (and the world) through digital television. Media & Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication authors wrote: “…there are other pluses to going digital. Because digital signals require less frequency space than analog signals, TV stations can compress a digital signal and carry several different signals using the same frequency or bandwidth.” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos: 2011)

References Creeber, G. & Martin, R. (Eds.). (2009) Digital Cultures: Understanding new media. New York, NY: Ashford Colour Press Ltd., Gosport, Hants. Campbell, R., Martin, C. R. & Fabos, B. (Eds.). (2011) Media & Culture: An introduction to mass communication. Boston, MA: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.