Hollywood will control your TV
By Brad Dick, Editorial Director
Remember the opening segment in the series The Outer Limits? As the show opened, the announcer said in an ominous voice “We control the horizontal, we control the vertical.” Meanwhile, the screen breaks up horizontally and then vertically. As a kid I thought that was true. Well, it looks like Hollywood is about to make that happen for real.
Last April I warned readers about a proposal to restrict the viewing and storage of electronic content. Now, thanks to Hollywood, the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) and their puppets in Congress — the movie moguls are about to increase that control over a whole lot more than your TV set. They'll control every media device, from your TV set to your PVR, VCR, computer, cell phone and anything else that might touch their precious material. The most significant consumer ripoff ever is being hidden under the banner of copyright legislation. After all, according to the movie and record companies, every American is nothing more than an evil pirate.
The latest infringement on your freedom is Ernest Hollings' Hollywood-driven bill called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). This mouthful of anticonsumer legislation will prevent almost anyone from copying almost any material to anything.
Separate from the bill is the control over HDTV. This would be handled by a new interface called DVI. Hollywood wants this device on every display, recorder, receiver, you name it. Hollywood's goal is to be sure that they can control what material you can see or record.
In addition to Hollywood's goal of controlling what and when you watch or listen to anything, there's one more little itsy bitsy problem with their solution. The “solution” would make every HDTV product out there obsolete. Overnight about three million HDTV sets are going to become very expensive doorstops.
If your current HDTV set doesn't have a DVI connector (and it doesn't), you will never be able to display an HD image on it. There is no backward compatibility. No grace period to upgrade to a new TV set would be allowed. Some of you may still be making payments on your HDTV set long after it becomes that doorstop I mentioned. You (and I) my friend, are screwed.
Want to guess who's going to be blamed for this consumer ripoff? It sure won't be Congress! It's you, my fellow TV engineer and manager. Viewers are going to blame TV stations because one day their HDTV set worked and the next day it didn't. Viewers won't understand DVI, CBDTPA or QRZ. It's simply the TV station's fault, and boy are they gonna be mad!
If you want more information on the proposed legislation and how it may affect you and your station, check out the site www.eff.org. This is the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Watch the Tinsel Town video. While the video clip is cute, its message is frightening.
You can also easily send your Washington representatives a letter from this Web site. I urge you to write your congressional representative now — before Hollywood copy-protects that too.