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The Federal Communications Commission

Digital technology is not a passing whim, but an inescapable technological advancement. By the year 2006, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will have ordered all analog transmitters off the air. Before long, all broadcasters will commence with the employment of a revolutionary technology that will bring crystal-clear images and interactivity to television. However, the traditional set in the home will become obsolete, and consumer interest in its proposed replacement remains untested.

Consequently, only one major network has partly devoted time and resources into designing an extensive outline for breaking into the impending digital epoch. Surprisingly, that broadcaster is PBS. The Public Broadcast System’s dedication to a high-definition television adjustment present the educational station with an infinite collection of benefits that will have numerous positive implications for the station’s continuing role as entertainer and educator. Furthermore, high-definition television (HDTV) will significantly enhance the beauty and complexity of all PBS’s programming.

Founded in 1969, The Public Broadcasting System is America’s sole television network of public stations. Collectively, educational establishments, community organizations or state and municipal groups, operate approximately 350 member stations. All public television stations highlight the importance of illuminating cultural and educational programming, as well as distinguished programs on nature, science, and public affairs. In PBS: Behind the Screen, Laurence Tarvik depicts this unique organisation as “a $5 million appropriation” which over time, became a “multi-billion worldwide multi-media empire” (xvii).

Over four decades, PBS has become a leader in using technology to further its educational objective, such as, closed captioning, stereo television sound amd foreign language audio tracks. Therefore, it was inevitable that PBS would plunge ahead in the digital arena. At present, PBS does not resemble a conceivable pilot to navigate the television industry into this new technological horizon. The major disavanturage for the network is its $230 million annual budget, (that would seem diminutive compared to commercial networks and as a non-profit organization).

However, that has not interrupted the network from perfecting a $1. 7 billion strategy that will transfigure the station into one of America’s most advanced program conveyance systems. At the core of PBS’s industrious approach is the manner it proposes to adopt the larger bandwidth that digital technology presents. Whereby every section of the channel is adapted to dispatch the clearest picture. With a 60-inch screen and 720 or 1080 scanning lines, HDTV sets will be able to boast an outstanding wide-screen picture (16 by 9 aspect ratio).

Moreover, in contrast to approximately 480 lines in the National Television Committee (NTSC) analog format (4 by 3 aspect ratio), HDTV will exhibit images considerably more definer than the traditional models they are proposed to succeed. Furthermore, as our field of vision is rectangular, the format of HDTV is closer to the way we see. Naturally, having the screen occupy the viewers peripherally field of view will significantly enhance the sense of being there. In addition, HDTV’s 5. 1 channels of sound: three in the front (right, center, and left), two in the rear (left and right) and a subwoofer bass (the . hannel) will provide a near perfect sound.

In addition, the picture on a HDTV set will stay perfect until the signal becomes too weak for the receiver to pick it up. To be specific, the flawless reception will be the same picture the broadcaster started with at the transmitter. Overall, HDTV promises to make watching television, more of a cinematic experience, and will undoubtedly revolutionized the way we view PBS programs. Nevertheless, exceptional sound and improved picture quality does not necessarily convoy sufficient features to justify the average person spending somewhere between the estimated $3,000-$6,000 price range.

In PBS’s favor is a range of factors that combined to make the conditions right the networks digital modification – most notably, PBS’s dedication to airing diverse programs. As all PBS programs usually encompass vivid images or enlightening information, the distinct digital qualities that HDTV offers, will be adequately arranged with the ideal show. For example, during the day, the digital bandwidth can be filled simultaneously with several different shows at a lower resolution (multicasting), and during primetime viewing written facts and statistics can be aired alongside the video signals (datacasting).

The union of PBS and HDTV will bring boundless possibilities for enlightening program content and will undoubtedly change the public broadcaster in phenomenally ways. In The Public Broadcasters’ Statement of Principles, the essential facets singled out as contributing to a successful “cost-effective migration”, and the gracious “adoption by consumer’s at-home”, is for all public broadcasters to “enthusiastically embrace the unprecedented opportunities presented”. The ideal manner in which this can be fulfilled is for PBS to embrace multicasting.

This element of HDTV allows for the transmission of multiple programs and multimedia data concurrently within the broadcasters allotted channel spectrum. By using compression techniques not available with today’s analog systems, HDTV can squeeze up to four channels into its spectrum, granting PBS the ability to provide more services to its varied audiences. In her online article, HDTV: Will Viewers Bite? Margaret Kane characterizes datacasting as a technique that producers can employ to “spice up television shows”. Kane concluded that datacasting will “turn every show into (VH1’s) Pop-Up Video”.

This will result in “erstwhile couch potato” not considering “lowest common-denominator programs”. Alternatively, viewers will be able to “pick out their first choice of material” (Gilder 21). High-definition television will give PBS the ability to transmit information and data over the air. Instantly, this will provide a powerful tool for the station to expand its already thriving educational objective. In a Statement by Public Broadcasting Executives, Brugger, Coonord, and Duggan maintain that public broadcasting will “make full use of the educational opportunities that digital technology provides”.

In presenting all Americans with an “expanded, interactive and richly detailed world of learning”, The Public Broadcasting Service, will combine interactivity with the aesthetic risks that the station is renowned for to create a new hybrid of multimedia entertainment. HDTV will offer PBS’s audiences an unprecedented control over what viewer’s watch and how they use the network. To state a potential scenario, a PBS documentary may offer the audiences an occasion to observe lengthened interviews, conclusive reports, or even a chat room whereby the audience could discuss the programs content.

With just an interactive keyboard or remote control, the audience can maneuver their way around supplementary information, The only limitation to an audiences discovery will be the inventiveness of the producers of a program. Although the manner in which we will interact with television in the future is unpredictable, what is certain, is that television and the PBS network is never going to be the same. The digital future will be a highly interactive arena, where the most exhilarative proposals can be made possible. To fully ascertain the unlimited potential of HDTV, a recent examination was undertaken.

On November 10 and 11, (during PBS Digital Week), PBS in association with The Intel Corporation televised the first nationwide enhanced digital broadcast. During the airing of a documentary on the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, accompanying information was dispatched in the television signals to appropriately equipped viewers. In illustrating the “marriage of broadband digital delivery”, Ron Whitter, senior vice president of Intel’s Content Group, summarized the whole revolutionary event as “something better than television and something better than the Internet”.

In addition to this statement, Nicholas Negroponte agrees that “the future of being digital”, can be summarized as “the quality of one medium being transported to another”. Neogroponte further stated that “the future will not be one or the other, it will be both”. (20). The technological climate is now ideal for program makers and the PBS network to explore and grasp this ambiguity, and employ all positive elements of HDTV into program content. The deadline for broadcasters to switch from analog to digital is looming fast.

Surprisingly, in this era of highly accessible information, the consumer is left bewildered. At the present time, the cost of HDTV set is too phenomenal to justify buying a television with an undetermined shelf life. Unfortunately, until broadcasters have a large audience, program content might be lacking in potential. In summation, the cost of producing high-definition format is colossal and the average program will not survive if they are only catering to such a small audience.

Only time will tell how HDTV will be accepted and adapted by consumers and the program makers. In this escalating media environment of monopolization by multinational organizations, pursuing profit from digital technology, only PBS remands committed to delivering high value for low cost. Furthermore, PBS is devoted to narrowing the information gap between the less fortunate and the privileged few. Only PBS can be entrusted with using his new medium to serve the culturally and socially diverse American audience.

Likewise, PBS’s expedition into digital television fully exploits the following fragment of the networks mission statement: “to serve its members with programming and services of the highest quality and the imaginative use of technology to advance education, culture and citizenship”. In this technological evolution, the partnership of HDTV and PBS will continue to establish the networks right as being America’s foremost media endeavor, purely because the means in which the network excellently manipulations technology for formal education and lifelong learning.

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