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Thomson shuts down American picture tube production

Last week Thomson, citing a decline in demand for CRT picture-tube television receivers, announced it is closing its more than 50-year-old picture-tube plant in Marion, IN and a related manufacturing plant in Circleville, OH.

A fire broke out in the Marion factory about four hours after the closing was announced, causing about $750,000 in damage. The fire destroyed a 5,000-square-foot area and some 600 picture tubes. Local fire officials suspect arson.

The decision to close the plants impacts 990 employees in the Marion facility and 545 employees in Circleville, Thomson said. The picture-tube plant, originally purchased by RCA in 1949 from the Farnsworth Radio Company, recently had produced 25-, 31-, 32-, 35- and 36-inch screen sizes. The Circleville plant was started in 1970 as a glass-panel and funnel facility for 19-inch televisions.

From 2000 to 2006, Thomson estimates a 40 percent decline in the North American picture-tube business as customers shift to buying different display technologies, including plasma, LCD and digital rear projection.

Also impacting the direct-view CRT market is the escalating volume of television products being imported into the U.S. from Asian manufacturers. However, the company said the decision to close the U.S. plants was not made by new management involved in Thomson’s new joint venture with China’s TCL.

The story comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of color TV, which officially began March 25, 1954. It was then that RCA began making color TV sets at its Bloomington, IN. plant. That year RCA sold about 5000 sets with 12-inch screens, known as the model CT-100 color receiver, which sold for $1000 each; prohibitively expensive for most consumers. That same year about 7.4 million black and white sets were sold, and 56 percent of U.S. households had at least one black and white TV.

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