Digital Television and Analogous Television

Digital Television and the Law

An Introduction to Digital Television and a comparison of Digital Television and Analogous Television:

What is Digital Television? As compared to Analogous Television that receives one electronic signal that is continuous in nature, the Digital Television uses the concept of a ‘binary code’ that means that the signal that it receives is composed of a series of ones and zeroes, in much the same way as that of a Computer. The encoding of zeroes and ones means that the signal that it receives is not a continuous process when compared to that of the analogous Television, but very similar to that of a computer, which receives coded signals in the form of zeroes and ones. (Glossary of Acronyms and Definitions) Digital television is capable of receiving signals that provide four to five channels in the same bandwidth that is required by the Analogous Television, and the pictures that are displayed are of better clarity and of a higher definition. Some of the other devices that use this digital technology are the Internet, a calculator, the Compact Disc, and the Computer. (Glossary of Terms)

Just as Compact disc stores music in the form of zeroes and ones, or in other words, a series of binary digits, the digital television is also represented in the same manner, just as a compact disc changed its form in order to better eliminate scratches so that the music would be clear of disturbances, so did digital television improve on the analogous television so that disturbances and interferences such as ‘ghosting’ could be removed. The most important improvement that happened in digital television is the fact that a computer chip can compress the entire thing in a small chip, and this means that digital television would be able to receive more channels in the same bandwidth, or, in other words, the signals can all be squeezed together into the same small space that an analogous television would occupy for one single channel.

The actual benefits of digital television are that there would be more channels and that the picture would be much clearer with lesser interferences than normal. In a comparative study of analogue television vs. digital television, the following points are very obvious: analogue television receives signals through an aerial. This means that the pictures would be affected by what is known as ‘snow’, and the images would be ghost like, and in addition, there would be a lot of interferences through cross channeling, because of the area of location of the aerial. In digital television, the signals receives are binary figures, and this means that the image demonstrates a good clarity. However, the digital image is liable to ‘degrade’ very quickly; this means that a person viewing an image on the digital television can either see a perfectly clear and beautiful picture, or he will not see any picture at all. (Digital TV, beyond the hype)

Though some providers of digital television like Sky claim that weather conditions do not affect the clarity of images on digital television, this fact has been demonstrated as not being true. Weather does affect digital images and there is a certain amount of corruption present. In fact, though the images are better than those of analogous television, the limitations of the compression technology that is used for digital television is apparent in the manner in which ‘digital artifacts’ or ‘after images’ as they are better known occur on the television when the picture changes much too fast, or even when other channels are fighting for the same bandwidth at the same time. Digital television must not be confused with ‘high definition’ television; in fact digital television occupies the same number of lines of 625, as the analogous television.

Though there are claims that the sound in digital television is better than that of the analogous television, it may not always be true. While analogous TV uses the ‘Nicam Stereo Sound’, digital television uses a newer and more developed technology for sound. However, there are still only two sound channels, and there is no obvious difference between the two sounds. Both analogous and digital television provide sound quality ‘near’ that of CD sound, but these are empty claims and the sound quality is nowhere as good as CD sound. However, it is a fact that some countries do use better technology for sound: while in the UK the sound is made up of two channels with MPEG audio, and because of the lack of bandwidth it is impossible to provide more, and the U.S.A. uses a system composed of five + one channels provided by the Dolby Digital Sound System. There are claims that digital television is ‘interactive’. (Digital TV, beyond the hype)

The fact that digital television will offer tele text messages and a few program guides where the user can choose a particular page and it will appear automatically does not make it an actual interactive television. True interactive television is when an individual must, for example, when he wants to shop at home, by plug in his set top box into a phone line, but this is not part and parcel of digital television. Digital television providers- Sky as well as on-digital claim that they will provide interactive services such as e-mail to users; but how far this claim will be proven true remains to be seen. As regards the costs, there are some claims that digital television will cost more than the analogous television. However, this is true only to a certain extent. Some providers provide the digital boxes free of cost to all subscribers with a basic minimum rate of fee for one channel with some other free and other pay channels also forming part of the bargain.

Some providers give the set top box free when subscribers sign up for the ‘Interactive Discount Contract’ that would entitle them to a large number of free as well as pay channels in audio as well as in video, and the connection would be through the phone line of the user. The cable digital connection is an interesting proposition, which, at the time of the writing of this article is still in the planning phase. The Government demands that all digital television users have to pay an extra licensing fee for the television connection, annually. Though quite a few people feel that this is totally unnecessary and that it will actually have the result of slowing down takers for digital television, the extra fee will have to be paid when a person wants to change over to digital television. In addition, one particular set top box will not be bale to do the job for DTT, Digital Satellite, and Digital Cable, as all three connections are different and all of them need a different set top box. (Digital TV, beyond the hype)

However, this may change as enterprising entrepreneurs are researching newer techniques of connecting the DTT to the Digibox and so on. While in analogous television, the remote control provides the service of changing the channels, while watching digital television one can choose his favorite program from the ‘Electronic Program Guide’. A single button on the remote control will provide the viewer with a list of channels and the programs that are on in each channel. For example, when a viewer is interested in sports, he has to choose it from the menu, and a list of all the sports channels comes up, from which he can choose the channel that he wants to watch. Another advantage that users of digital television enjoy is that of parental control and regulations, and yet another advantage is that the set top box can be regulated to remind the user when a favorite program is about to begin. Users can even record programs when he has to go out and will not be at home when the program is on.

It was in the year 1998 that the digital television was initially launched. BBC Choice was among the first to launch it, followed by SkyDigital. The next company to set up digital television was the FilmFour, after which DTT – Digital Terrestrial Television, also known as the Digital Network was launched and the first few Ondigital boxes were sold to the public. The DTT is actually digital television that is provided through an aerial, and a set top box that does the duty of decoding the compressed transmissions that are sent through the aerial. The analogue television system through which the majority of viewers watch television was replaced and about 30 new channels were provided. Though digital television has been launched with much fanfare, it still remains to be seen whether everyone is interested in paying more not only for the set top box, but also for quite a few channels that are now no longer free, and whether digital television will some day succeed in totally replacing analogous television is yet to be ascertained. (Digital TV, beyond the hype)

An explanation and assessment of the current laws and mandates regarding digital television in America:

When digital television was first launched in the year 1998, there were high hopes and expectations that this would be a more like a movie theatre viewing at home, and plans were made to change the entire analogue system to that of digital television by the end of the year 2006, but how far this has happened is yet to be seen; what with all the practical difficulties involved in such a major change. The technological capabilities of digital television are enormous, and the future of digital television can be seen as being on par with web pages and compact disc technology, all through the television. The broadcasting standard, however, can be traced back to the time when analogous television was first introduced as a viable medium in the time of World War II. It was in 1940 that the NTSC – National Television Systems Committee decided to set certain standards for the broadcast of television signals. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The technology that was decided upon at that time still remains in the U.S.A. today, as for example in the 525-line low-resolution channel on which the Evening News is telecast everyday. However, even though this fact demonstrates that the U.S.A. was indeed a trendsetter, it is a sad fact that the U.S.A. is still entrenched in the same standards and is finding it difficult to adapt and change over to the newer technologies of today, and it was not until the 1980’s that the need for change was realized, and the study of the digital television system, Advanced Television Technology or ATV as it was known at the time was undertaken. When numerous high definition television systems were tested, among them both analogous and digital, it was found that three was actually a surfeit of broadcasting signals, and if the new high definition pictures were to be viewed, then the entire system would have to be digital, because of the simple fact that the analogue system would need more bandwidth than was available.

In the year 1988, the FCC adapted a Tentative Decision and Further Notice of Enquiry about advanced television, and this policy was a herald of the future decision regarding digital television that it would take in the next few years. The general idea was to change all the viewers of analogue television into viewers of digital television, and to this effect it was decided that the existing broadcasters would be given an extra 6 MHz spectrum band so that digital broadcasters could transmit on these bands and analogous signals would be gradually discontinued from usage, when customers stopped watching analogous TV and moved onto digital TV. In 1997, a timeline was announced, by which all television broadcasters would have to start broadcasting digital television, and this rule was made to coincide with the sale of high definition television sets. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The Cable Act of 1992 specifies the provision that says ‘must carry’ and this provision may be applied to digital television too. The must carry rule specifies that digital operators must carry a one third capacity of digital television signals in addition to analogous television signals, and the high definition television broadcasters must also follow the ‘system upgrade’ option during the transition phase from analogous to digital. In addition, the ‘phase-in’ policy states that broadcasters must carry digital signals gradually and increase it every year, and they must also choose from the ‘either/or’ choice that states that a choice must be made whether they would broadcast analogous or digital signals in the transition phase. (Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled?)

The ‘conditional access’ technology that is a must for the era of digital television is what is generally known as ‘Anti Piracy Encryption’. While it is true that the anti-piracy technology is sufficiently developed to handle misuse, the fact that the general market conditions will keep changing over the years as the broadcasters would be required to cope with the demand for better and more services as well as technological innovations. The conditional access policy is helpful in preventing piracy in the area of ‘pay TV’, where there is much scope for piracy. The only way in which to fight this illegal piracy is by strengthening encryption and authentication technologies so that the thief cannot copy ‘subscriber smart cards’ and thereby succeed in stealing the revenues of broadcasters. Unless strict measures are taken, the digital television broadcasters would suffer needless losses whereby illegal persons who have no authority to broadcast would be able to access broadcast programming. The conditional access system would not only protect those broadcasters whose livelihood depended on pay TV, but would also serve the purpose of enabling new avenues of revenue by way of pay-per-view films and interactive television to come in. (Anti-Piracy Measures in Digital and Interactive TV)

The Federal Communications Commission has given its approval for the issue of the all important ‘broadcasting flag’ for digital television. Imagine a scenario when a person has paid for his digital television connection and has also bought a new television set of high definition, and sits down to watch his favorite program. While he is enjoying it immensely, it is suddenly cut off and the screen becomes blank. Why did this happen? It was because the broadcaster had suddenly found out that the program had not been approved for telecasting and had therefore shut it off. This means that the control rests in the hands of the broadcaster and not in the hands of the person watching the program. (Broadcast Flag Kills Mickey Mouse)

Now that the FCC has placed the decision in the hands of the broadcaster and the broadcaster has embedded a ‘flag’ in their programming that would encourage the transition from analogous television to digital television, and also prevent any potential harm that may occur due to the free and ‘over the air’ broadcasting in the digital TV. One critic of the broadcasting flag states that now no programs can be recorded by anyone even if it is perfectly legal to record ones favorite programs from television. He says that all the good has been removed from TV and in its place is a program that costs more and does less. This may or may not be true but the broadcast flag was something of utmost importance and that was why the FCC stamped its approval on it. (FCC approves Broadcast flag for Digital Television)

However, the Personal Video Recorders that are fitted onto digital television sets allows one to record programs onto a hard disk, something akin to those found in the computer. The advantages are many: there is no need for rewinding and unwinding; it is possible to bring a live TV program to a pause, and the obvious advantage is that there is much more space on the personal video disk than on the traditional VHS cassette. (Hard Disk Video Recorders) it is sometimes argued that the Digital Rights Movement is a dire threat to fair use and to free speech as well as to privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is one of those groups that support the theory that digital television is indeed a threat to free speech, etc. In addition, the Electronic Frontier Foundation also stated that basic consumer rights were being threatened by the digital rights management technologies – DRM. This may be because of the fact that digital TV broadcasters generally restrict the use of digital files so that copyrights may be protected, but this becomes irritating to the general consumer. (Digital Rights Management and Privacy)

The digital television broadcasting market is filled with newer challenges day-to-day. The main challenge today is the delivery of multiple contents over a single connection. Some content may be composed of audio, some of video, and some of a combination of the two, and now there is interactive television also. All this makes the broadcasting of digital TV extremely challenging and a complex affair. What makes it more difficult is the fact that a single individual is expected to man hundreds of connections, a highly impossible task. The content must move from point to point in an organized manner, but mistakes may happen in the real world, and these have to be notified to the concerned persons immediately, or else, the entire system may fail. (Digital Television-New Challenges for Quality Control) the human eye is not fit to monitor the entire system and it is due to this reason that a system that would anticipate problems before they may arise has been created. This is referred to as ‘preventative monitoring’ and a large number of tools are available for this purpose. Therefore, the new challenges that are being faced by broadcasters of digital TV are being handled in an intelligent and practical manner and this makes the entire structure of the broadcasting network better. (Preventative Monitoring- a New Paradigm)

Current Laws and Mandates for digital television in the UK:

In the UK, it is the ‘Office of Communications’ that is largely responsible for the regulation as well as the setting of certain standards of broadcasting for the broadcasters of commercial television in the United Kingdom. The BBC, however, is wholly responsible for setting and maintaining its own standards of broadcasting. (Industries and Sectors Broadcasting) the Digital Video Broadcasting Project, also known as the DVB, is a group consisting of broadcasters, network operators, software engineers, and certain regulatory bodies who are responsible for setting up rules and regulations about digital television. An industry related consortium that consists of members from over 35 different countries from all over the world leads the entire group. The DVB is committed to holding up and maintaining global standards for digital television broadcast. (the DVB Project) the Digital TV group is an association meant for digital TV viewing in the UK. Started in 1995, the group is responsible for setting standards for both Digital Television and for Digital Terrestrial Television – DTT; the DTG also assists in the testing of digital TV technology. (DTG, Objectives)

TV shopping is the most popular occupation among citizens of the UK and some other European countries. The main reason is the popularity of digital television and the accompanying bidding as well as gambling all through television. UK alone boasts of more than 40 channels all for the purpose of shopping or gambling, through the popular iTV that Avago and Sky Vegas use via the return path, and because of which betting and gambling have entered many homes in the UK. (UK, Germany European Leaders) in May of the year 2002, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell predicted that the only TV that will be available for viewing in the year 2010 would be that of digital technology. She also said that the change would be at its peak in the years from 2006 to 2010 when digital TV would become affordable to all, and also easily accessible to everyone, though most households would still stick with analogous TV. The viewers must be able to see some sort of great advantage in digital TV, it is only when this is achieved that the change would be faster, she said. (Digital Switchover by 2010)

Tim Richardson in 2004 said that the government must put a stop to all speculation about the deadline for the changeover from analogous to digital TV, and set up one single date so that all viewers as well as broadcasters would work towards this date. Boffins of OFCOM stated that the change would be phased out over a certain time and region by region so that no TV would have to go completely blank at any point of time. Consumers would be provided with non-technical information about the change so that there would no confusion any where about it. (the Register) the Communications Bill consisting of about 395 clauses and 19 schedules was written to serve as a set of mandates regarding the legal technicalities of digital TV, and it is a document very similar to that of the rules for the broadcasting and communications industry. (Communications Bill Battle Begins) the digital recorders that are provided by Sky+ and TiVo offer the viewer the chance to record one program while actually watching another one. Hard disk recorders allow the user to record and store his favorite programs on a hard disk, just like on a computer. (Digital TV Explained) comparison and contrast of U.S. And British digital TV laws: It is a fact that the regulatory laws for television are discrete and a movement from the vertical system of communication to the horizontal model of convergence is indeed necessary to better these laws. Licensing, especially for terrestrial television, is also a very difficult issue and needs quite a lot of research and patient effort to make it perfect. There have been a few skirmishes in the UK between OFTEL and the ITC networks about various regulations. OFTEL believes that digital television is the future of TV, and ITC believes that terrestrial free TV will dominate in the future. In the U.S.A., all the major networks broadcast television programs that are viewed by over 60% of people., and ITC believes that traditional or analogous TV and digital TV must and can very well co-exist together in the future, as will interactive television when it becomes practical and viable. (Convergence or coexistence: Television and Telecommunications Policies Diverge in the Convergence Debate)

In conclusion, the future of television viewing will be digital and as early as 2006, every home will possess a TV that will broadcast digital television through as many as 35 channels.


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Digital Rights Management and Privacy. Electronic Privacy Information Center. March 29, 2004. Retrieved at

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Digital Television: Has the Revolution Stalled? Duke Law and Technology Review. April 26, 2001. Retrieved at

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Higham, Nick. Communications Bill Battle Begins. 26 November, 2002. Retrieved at

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