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Stay Tuned to Your Television Sets

November 18, 1990

The global race to develop a new generation of television is taking a new twist that could put the U.S. electronics industry at the head of the pack in this new technology. A major U.S. technological innovation in transmitting TV images could revitalize the American TV industry.

Wouldn't that be a welcome change?

For starters, the Federal Communications Commission has decided to select one uniform system that will be the U.S. standard for HDTV-- better known as high-definition television--sooner rather than later. This decision comes after years of indecision.

Decisive federal leadership--plus a technological breakthrough--could result in an American system that gives the United States major advantages over systems being developed in Japan and Europe.

HDTV is the hot new home electronic innovation of the future. It will bring crisp, motion-picture-quality images into the home accompanied by the sound quality of compact discs. The global race is on to develop the new technology, because HDTV is expected to be an extremely huge industry by the year 2000.

The United States cannot afford to delay in launching HDTV. High-definition broadcasts already are being delivered an hour a day to Japanese viewers on sets costing $17,000 and up. Full-time HDTV broadcasting is expected to begin in Japan in 1992. Europeans are expected to be able to watch the 1992 Olympics on a European HDTV system.

The FCC will test six HDTV applications. Five of the proposals are based on a computer-precise technique of digital electronics--a U.S. technological calling card. If this route is taken, TVs would function like computers, storing and retrieving video materials.

Keying a new generation of TVs to computers would mark a major technological advance. Until now, HDTV development, especially in Japan, has centered on transmission of television signals via satellite on analog wave forms, like present-day TV.

The big challenge now is for the U.S. makers of the digital system to meet strict government deadlines for the testing, which begins next April. The FCC plans to establish the standard by June, 1993. HDTV backers believe the new technology could revitalize the flickering U.S. electronics industry and be a major source of U.S. economic growth in the next century.

So far, the United States, Japan and the European Community have failed to agree on common HDTV broadcast standards, dashing hopes that the next generation of television would simplify the process of showing programs or movies.

Unless, of course, American HDTV technology proves so irresistible that it sweeps all other systems aside.

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