oversight

High Definition Television: The Effects of Standards on U.S. Entertainment Industries

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-16.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee ,
on ‘l’elecommunications and Finance,
Committee on Energy and Commerce,
House of Representatives


HIGH DEFINITION
TELEVISION
The Effects of
Standards on U.S.
Entertainment
Industries
                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20648

                   Information Management and
                   Technology Division

                   B-237265

                   March 16,199O

                   The Honorable Edward J. Markey
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on Telecommunications
                     and Finance
                   Committee on Energy and Commerce
                   House of Representatives

                   Dear Mr. Chairman:

                   This report responds to your April 28, 1989, letter, which asked us to
                   provide information on high definition television (HDTV) standards. In
                   subsequent meetings with your office, we agreed to assess the effect
                   that the selection of (1) a worldwide IIDTV production standard would
                   have on the U.S. motion picture and television industry’s ability to mar-
                   ket its movies and television programs internationally and (2) a domes-
                   tic transmission standard would have on the ability of U.S. firms
                   involved in television transmission and manufacturing to participate in
                   HDTV. This report focuses on HDTV as an entertainment medium; a previ-
                   ous report discussed other potential applications for HDTV. l In this
                   review, we obtained information primarily through interviews with offi-
                   cials representing the motion picture and television industry, academic
                   and research organizations, and government agencies knowledgeable
                   about IIDTV. (App. I contains additional information on our objectives,
                   scope, and methodology.)

   ,
                   Although efforts to adopt a single worldwide HDTV production standard
Recdultsin Brief   have been unsuccessful, the absence of such a standard will not nega-
                   tively affect the U.S. entertainment industry’s ability to successfully
                   market its movies and television programs. The U.S. motion picture
                   industry will continue to produce movies and television programs in 35
                   millimeter film and convert them to accommodate multiple HDTV stan-
                   dards Additionally, manufacturers of production equipment-studio
                   cameras, for example-will      manufacture multiple lines of HDTv equip-
                   ment to accommodate different standards, but believe they will other-
                   wise be unaffected by the lack of a single standard.

                   However, the adoption of an over-the-air transmission standard-an
                   area regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (Kc)-is

                   ’High Definition Television: Applications for This New Technology (GAO/IMTEC-90-SFS, Dec. 11,
                   1989).



                   Page 1             GAO/IMTEG90-33     Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entmtainment   Industries
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              important to U.S. broadcasters and television manufacturers.2 While
              Japan’s and Europe’s HDTV systems are designed for satellite transmis-
              sion, the primary transmission medium in the United States is over-the-
              air broadcast. However, the technology to successfully transmit HDTV
              signals over-the-air, within current regulatory constraints, is still under
              development. Without a standard, broadcasters will be at a competitive
              disadvantage with cable and satellite companies because the technology
              is already available for them to transmit HDTV. However, broadcasters
              may not be able to transmit a television picture comparable to that of
              cable and satellite, even after the adoption of an over-the-air transmis-
              sion standard, because of regulatory and technical constraints. Further-
              more, because television design is closely linked to the transmission
              system, television manufacturers need to know what transmission sys-
              tem will be used in order to manufacture the appropriate sets.


                    is a new video technology, pioneered by the Japanese, that has a
Btickground   HDTV
              wider and much sharper television picture, similar to the quality of
              films shown in theaters. HDTV significantly improves picture quality by
              increasing the number of scanning lines (horizontal lines that make up a
              television picture) from 525 to over 1,000. This improved picture qual-
              ity can best be viewed on a large screen. In addition, HDTV has improved
              color and digital stereo sound. HDTV, however, is not compatible with
              current U.S. television technology, and as a result, consumers cannot
              view HDTV on existing television sets, and broadcasters cannot use cur-
              rent transmission equipment to transmit HDTV.

              An HDTV system has three related parts: production, transmission, and
              display. The production part of the system creates the television pro-
              gram. It includes the camera used to convert an image into an electronic
              signal. During transmission the television program is transferred, in the
              form of an electronic signal, from a central distribution center to the
              television viewer. The display part of the system transforms the infor-
              mation transmitted into a viewable image.

              There are currently two distinct but related HDTV standards at issue-
              production and transmission. A production standard is a set of technical
              specifications that determine how audio and visual information is cre-
              ated and recorded. Production standards determine the design and man-
              ufacture of production equipment, such as studio cameras and videotape

              “Broadcasters, as used in this report, means over-the-air broadcasters, as distinguished from cable
              and satellite broadcast.



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recorders. Transmission standards determine how the audio and visual
information is converted to a signal format and transmitted to the
viewer. Television pictures can be transmitted over-the-air, by cable, or
by satellite. Transmission standards also affect the design and manufac-
ture of television sets,

Presently, television programs are produced in two formats-35 milli-
meter film and video.:j Currently, however, 35 millimeter film-the    high-
est quality production format available-is the accepted worldwide
production standard for the international exchange of movies and tele-
vision programs. Although video production has some advantages over
film, such as simplifying post production and creating special effects,
current video production technology is inferior in quality to that of 35
millimeter film. HDTV, however, is a new video technology that offers
both the advantages of video production and the quality of 35 millime-
ter film. As a result, some believe that HDTV may be an alternative pro-
duction format for movies and television programs in the future.

Since the 198Os, the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR),
an international voluntary standards setting body which is part of the
United Nations, has been working toward the adoption of a single world-
wide HDTV production standard-similar    in quality to 35 millimeter
film-to ease the international exchange of television programs and
movies, At the 1986 CUR Plenary meeting, the United States and Japan
proposed the adoption of a modified Japanese production ‘standard to be
used by motion picture and television studios worldwide. At that time, it
appeared that the Japanese standard would be adopted as the world-
wide production standard. To realize the benefits of a single worldwide
production standard, US. industry representatives supported this
standard, even though some representatives had reservations about
technical aspects of the Japanese standard. However, the European
Community rejected the Japanese standard. The Japanese had devel-
oped an entire IIDTV system- designed for satellite transmission-and
were already manufacturing related equipment. Therefore, although the
European Community objected to the standard for technical reasons,
many believe that they rejected the standard because they believed
Japan would get a marketing advantage for consumer equipment
derived from its standard.


                                                                                                   -
%lm is a chemical process; it requires a chemical to develop the images or pictures. Video is an
electronic process; it electronically records images on videotape.



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                            B-237265




                            During the 1986 CUR meeting, European objections to the Japanese
                            standard and the subsequent announcement of Europe’s intention to
                            develop its own HDTV system-designed for satellite transmission-
                            made it unlikely that CCIR participants would be able to agree on any
                            worldwide production standard, at least in the short-term. As a result,
                            IJ.S. industry consensus to adopt the Japanese standard dissolved.
                            Although some U.S. industry representatives continued to work toward
                            the adoption of a production standard, the emphasis in the United States
                            shifted from production to transmission because neither Europe nor
                            Japan was developing an over-the-air transmission standard-the
                            United States’ primary transmission medium-for     HDTV. As a result, the
                            FCC-a U.S. government agency that regulates over-the-air broadcast-
                            began coordinating efforts to develop an HDTV over-the-air transmission
                            standard. (App. II contains additional information on CCIR'S efforts to
                            adopt a worldwide HDTV production standard.)


                            A single worldwide HDTV production standard could benefit the motion
Absence of a                picture and production equipment manufacturing industries by making
Worldwide HDTV              the marketing of programs easier and reducing equipment manufactur-
Production Standard         ing costs, However, the lack of such a standard will have little effect on
                            these industries’ ability to participate in the global HDTV market. The
Will Not Negatively         U.S. filmmaking community, currently the single largest producer of the-
Affect U.S. Industry        ater and television programs, is responsible for a trade surplus in excess
                            of $1 billion. Representatives of this industry believe they will continue
                            to be successful, even after HDTV is introduced, because they sell their
                            programs primarily on content rather than picture quality. In addition,
                            industry representatives believe they will continue to produce most
                            motion pictures and television programs in 35 millimeter film-the      cur-
                            rently accepted worldwide production standard-because (1) CCIR par-
                            ticipants are not likely to reach agreement on a single worldwide HDTV
                            production standard soon, (2) 35 millimeter film is the highest quality
                            production format available, and (3) the motion picture industry prefers
                            35 millimeter film as a creative production medium.


35 Millimeter Film Will     As a result of the controversy surrounding the adoption of an HDTV pro-
                            duction standard, CCIH participants have been unable to agree to a single
Continue as the Worldwide   standard. The Japanese and the Europeans have made significant
Production Standard         investments in their I-IDTV systems, and each would like its production
             Y              standard adopted worldwide. Without a single HDTV production stand-
                            ard, there will be a need to convert among HDTV standards, just as there
                            is a need to convert among the multiple current television standards. As


                            Page 4         GAO/IMTEG90-33   Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
                            a result, most motion picture and television industry officials agree that
                            35 millimeter film will likely continue as the preferred production for-
                            mat for international program exchange.

                            According to motion picture and television industry officials, film is the
                            highest quality production format currently available with about 2,000
                            lines of resolution, As a result, it converts well to all current television
                            standards, and according to motion picture industry officials, will also
                            convert well to IIDTV standards.

                            Although most motion picture industry officials agree that there are
                            advantages to producing on video, particularly in creating special
                            effects, the majority of the filmmaking community prefers film as a cre-
                            ative medium at the present time. Film is supported by an entire indus-
                            try of craftsmen, including cinematographers, who are accustomed to
                            using film, like the way it looks, and can create moods with film that
                            cannot be created with video. In addition, the quality of film continues
                            to improve. Furthermore, a large U.S. filmmaking company has recently
                            developed an electronic intermediate system that allows the filmmaking
                            community to enjoy some of the benefits of video production-special
                            effects, for example- while continuing to use 35 millimeter film as its
                            primary production medium. With this system, film is converted to a
                            high resolution video format, manipulated, and then transferred back to
                            film while maintaining the high resolution imaging capabilities of film.


Production Equipment        Equipment manufacturer representatives we interviewed stated that the
Firrixs Are Unaffected by   lack of a single IIDTVproduction standard will not affect their ability to
                            compete in the world market. Currently, they manufacture to multiple
the back of a Worldwide     standards and sell their equipment internationally. A single worldwide
Standard                    production standard, however, reduces manufacturing costs by eliminat-
                            ing the need for multiple production lines.


                            The adoption of an over-the-air transmission standard is needed to allow
Transmission                U.S. broadcasters and television manufacturers the opportunity to par-
Standards Are               ticipate in IIDTV. Whereas the Japanese and European HDTV systems are
Important to HDTV           designed for satellite transmission, the primary transmission medium in
                            the United States is over-the-air broadcast. However, the technology
Participation*              necessary to transmit HDTV signals over-the-air, within current regula-
                            tory constraints, has not been fully developed, and as a result, the selec-
                            tion of a standard is years away. Furthermore, without a transmission
                            standard, US. broadcasters could be at a competitive disadvantage with


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                          B237266




                          cable and satellite companies, They do not have the same regulatory and
                          technical limitations as broadcasters and the technology is already
                          available for them to transmit HDTV. Although cable companies can use
                          the foreign technology and transmit HDTV, an over-the-air transmission
                          standard is important because of their role in retransmitting broadcast
                          programming. A transmission standard is also important to television
                          manufacturers because it affects the design of television sets.


Broadcasters Could Be     The FCC regulates over-the-air broadcasting and allocates spectrum-the
Dis+dvantaged Without a   continuous range of radio frequencies in which television signals are
                          transmitted over-the-air. Spectrum, however, is limited and broadcast-
Trapsmission Standard     ers must compete with other services, such as cellular phones, for addi-
    /                     tional spectrum. Currently, broadcasters are limited to transmitting
                          television signals within 6 megahertz (MHZ) of bandwidth.4 HDTV, how-
                          ever, has about four to five times the information as current television
                          and, as a result, transmitting an HDTV television signal requires a wider
                          bandwidth than is available for current television.

                          In 1987, in response to broadcasters’ concerns about transmitting HDTV,
                          the FCC began coordinating efforts to develop an HDTV over-the-air trans-
                          mission standard. In addition, the FCC established the Advisory Commit-
                          tee on Advanced Television to coordinate the development of the
                          standard and to assist the FCC with the technical and policy issues sur-
                          rounding over-the-air HDTV broadcasts.

                          The FCC issued a tentative decision, in September 1988, in which it con-
                          cluded that existing service to viewers using current television sets must
                          be continued, at least for a transition period, and that no more than an
                          additional 6 MHZ of bandwidth per channel would be allocated for HDTV
                          transmission. The FCC further stated that this additional bandwidth
                          would have to come from spectrum already dedicated to television.
                          Although additional spectrum-outside of what had been allocated for
                          television use-may be available for over-the-air broadcast of HDTV, the
                          FCC has tentatively decided not to consider the use of any spectrum not
                          already allocated for television use.

                          The FCC’s requirement to continue existing television service to consum-
                          ers provides continuity by ensuring that the 160 million television sets
                          in the United States do not become obsolete with the introduction of

                          “Randwidth is that portion of the spectrum available to transmit a single television signal, usually
                          expressed in millions of cycles per second or megahertz (MHz).



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HDTV, However, its requirement that broadcasters transmit an HDTV tele-
vision signal-a signal that contains about four to five times the infor-
mation of current television-within  6 MHZ makes it difficult for
broadcasters to transmit HDTV. The technology to transmit an HDTV sig-
nal within 6 MHz of bandwidth has not yet been fully developed.

As a result of the technical challenges associated with the over-the-air
broadcast of HDTV, a number of organizations, including U.S. and for-
eign-based television manufacturers, are developing prototype HDTV sys-
tems to meet the FCC criteria, as outlined in the tentative decision.
However, because the technology to transmit HDTV within 6 MHZ is not
yet fully developed, many of the prototype systems improve the current
television picture, but do not have the same picture quality that can be
transmitted by cable or satellite. The FCC will choose a standard from
among these prototype systems. In addition, broadcasters have estab-
lished the Advanced Television Testing Center to test these prototype
systems. The first of these systems is scheduled to begin testing in the
summer 1990 and testing is expected to be completed by 1992.

In contrast to over-the-air broadcast, satellite broadcast does not have
the same bandwidth limitations, and as a result, can transmit a wider
HDTV signal resulting in superior picture quality. Furthermore, not only
is satellite capable of transmitting a wider HDTV signal, satellite trans-
mission systems have already been developed and demonstrated. The
Japanese- whose HDTV system is designed for satellite transmission-
are already manufacturing equipment to transmit and receive an HDTV
satellite signal. In addition, at least one U.S. company has successfully
transmitted HDTV programming in the United States.

In addition to satellite, cable can also transmit a wider HDTV signal.
Although many cable companies’ channel capacity is near or at full
capacity, unlike broadcasters, they are not dependent on the FCC for
additional channels. To transmit a wider bandwidth HDTV signal, cable
systems could expand their systems to add channels or drop existing
channels to devote the additional bandwidth to HDTV. However, although
cable companies can transmit a wider HDTV signal, an over-the-air trans-
mission standard is important because of cable’s role in retransmitting
broadcast programming to the public. According to National Cable Tele-
vision Association estimates, cable is the means by which 54 percent of
IJS. households receive broadcast television. The average cable system
includes 35 channels, and approximately 5 are broadcast channels.
These 5 channels, however, account for 52 percent of the programming
watched in cable households.


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                           B-237206




                           Even with the adoption of a transmission standard for over-the-air
                           broadcast of IIDTV, broadcasters may still be at a disadvantage when
                           compared with cable and satellite. According to an Advisory Committee
                           report,” in the present stage of technical development, channels of more
                           than 6 MHZ are necessary to transmit HDTV signals comparable in quality
                           to those that will be offered by other transmission media.”


Tr$nsmission Standards     Transmission standards will determine the design and manufacture of
                           IIDTV sets sold in the United States. Television manufacturing in the
Af$ect Television Design
                           United States, however, is currently dominated by foreign firms; only
                           one U.S.-owned firm remains. Both U.S. and foreign-based manufactur-
                           ers have developed prototype over-the-air transmission systems. The
                           manufacturer-whether        U.S. or foreign-based-whose transmission
                           system is selected as the standard, may economically gain from owning
                           the technology and licensing other manufacturers. In addition, the
                           owner of the selected system will have a short-term advantage in manu-
                           facturing the high definition televisions.


                           IIDTV production standards will have little influence on the U.S. motion
Cokdusions                 picture and production equipment manufacturing industries’ ability to
                           participate in the international market. W ith the CCIH unlikely to reach
                           consensuson a worldwide production standard in the near-term, the
                           motion picture industry will continue to produce in 35 m illimeter film .
                           Furthermore, because the use of 35 m illimeter film seems to be firm ly
                           entrenched within the industry for artistic reasons, the motion picture
                           industry may continue to use this medium, at least for some time, even
                           after the adoption of an HDTV production standard. Conversion to any
                           IIDTV production standard does not present significant technical difficul-
                           ties, and therefore, will not hamper the motion picture industry’s ability
                           to market its programs internationally. As with the motion picture
                           industry, IIDTV production standards will have little influence on produc-
                           tion equipment manufacturers’ ability to participate in the international
                           market.

                           Transmission standards are critical to broadcasters’, and to a lesser
                           extent, television manufacturers’ participation in the domestic HDTV
                           market. Broadcasters have taken the lead in developing an over-the-air

                           “Inkrim Kcport of the FCC Advisory Committee on Advanced Television Service, June 16, 1988
                           “.Japancsctechnology is currently available to transmit an IIDTV satellite signal within 9 MIIz.



                           Page 8               GAO/IMTEC90-33       Effects of HDTV Standards on Entertainment        Industries
     B-237265




--
     transmission standard and this medium is likely to drive initial HDTV
     development, and more specifically, television manufacturing in the
     United States. The FCC’S decision to continue existing television service
     and limit the bandwidth available for HDTV transmission, however, has
     created a technical hurdle which will have to be overcome before broad-
     casters can transmit HDTV and a standard can be selected. Other media,
     such as cable and satellite, are not subject to the same regulatory and
     technical limitations and the technology is available to transmit HDTV.
     Although cable companies are unlikely to introduce HDTV in the near-
     term because of their role in the retransmission of broadcast program-
     ming, this situation may create an opportunity for satellite companies to
     compete with broadcasters by introducing IIDTV.

     Furthermore, IIDTV and the FCC decision may ultimately lead to competi-
     tive and structural changes in the television media industry. Given cur-
     rent regulatory and technical constraints, even with adoption of an
     over-the-air transmission standard, broadcasters will not be technically
     capable of delivering a picture of comparable quality to that of cable
     and satellite. As a result, broadcasters may be at a long-term competi-
     tive disadvantage with these other media. Moreover, this situation could
     create the opportunity and incentive for cable and satellite companies to
     offer alternative programming that could ultimately challenge the
     broadcasters’ current role as the dominant programming source.

     We did not obtain official agency comments on this report, however,
     during our review we discussed our findings with cognizant industry
     and government officials. As agreed with your office, we plan no further
     distribution of this report for 30 days from the date of this letter, or
     until you publicly release it. We will also provide copies to the Secretary
     of Commerce; Secretary of Defense; Secretary of State; and the Commis-
     sioner, Federal Communications Commission. We will make copies avail-
     able to other interested parties upon request.




     Page 9         GAO/IMTEC-90-33   Effects of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
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     B-237266




     This report was prepared under the direction of Jack L. Brock Jr., Direc-
     tor, Government Information and Financial Management, who can be
     reached at (202) 275-3195. Other major contributors to this report are
     listed in appendix III.

     Sincerely yours,




     Ralph V. Carlone
     Assistant Comptroller General




      Page 10       GAO/IMTEG!W33   Effects of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
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    Page 11   GAO/IMTEG90-33   Effects   of HD’l’V Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
CJbntents


  I
  I

Letter
Afipendix I
Ok$ectives,Scope, and
M&hodology
Appendix II
CCjIREfforts to Adopt
a worldwide HDTV
Prbduction Standard
Appendix III
M4or Contributors to
This Report




                        Abbreviations

                        ATSC      Advanced Television Systems Committee
                        CCIH      International Radio Consultative Committee
                        FCC       Federal Communications Commission
                        GAO       General Accounting Office
                        IIDTV     High Definition Television
                        IMTEC     Information Management Technology Division
                        MIIZ      megahertz
                        SMI’TIS   Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers


                        Page 12         GAO/IMTEC-90-33   Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
Page 13   GAO/IMTEC-90-33   Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
Appendix I

Okbjectives,Scope, and Methodology


                  The objectives of our review were to assess the effect the selection of
                  (1) a single worldwide HDTV production standard would have on the
                  motion picture and television industry’s ability to market programs
                  internationally and (2) a domestic transmission standard would have on
                  the ability of U.S. firms involved in television transmission and manu-
                  facturing to participate in HDTv.

                  We obtained information primarily through interviews with production
                  studios; television networks; cable companies; manufacturers of televi-
                  sion sets, production equipment and film; industry associations; aca-
                  demic and research organizations; and government agencies
                  knowledgeable about HDTV. We obtained this information from the fol-
                  lowing organizations:

              .   20th Century Fox, Beverly Hills, California;
              .   Metro-Goldwyn Mayer/United Artists Telecommunications, Inc., Culver
                  City, California;
              .   Paramount Pictures Corporation, Hollywood, California;
              .   Universal City Studios, Inc., Universal City, California;
              .   Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California;
              .   Warner Brothers, New York, New York;
              .   Rebo High Definition Studio, Inc., New York, New York;
              .   American Broadcasting Companies, New York, New York;
              .   CBS, New York, New York;
              .   National Broadcasting Company, New York, New York;
              .   Public Broadcasting Service, Alexandria, Virginia;
              .   Tele-Communications, Inc., Denver, Colorado;
              .   Viacom International, New York, New York;
              .   Hubbard Broadcasting, St. Paul, Minnesota;
              .   North American Philips Corporation, Briarcliff Manor, New York;
              .   SONY Corporation of America, Teaneck, New Jersey;
              .   Thomson Consumer Electronics, Washington, D.C.;
              .   Zenith, Glenview, Illinois;
              .   Ampex, Redwood City, California;
              .   Tektronics, Beaverton, Oregon;
              .   Eastman-Kodak, Rochester, New York;
              .   American Electronics Association, Santa Clara, California;
              .   Association of Maximum Service Telecasters, Washington, D.C.;
              .   Electronics Industry Association, Washington, D.C.;
              .   Motion Picture Association of America, Washington, D.C.;
              .   Motion Picture Export Association, New York, New York;
              .   National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, DC.;
              .   National Cable Television Association, Washington, D.C.;


                  Page 14       GAO/IMTEG!W33   Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




. Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, White Plains, New
  York;
  Advanced Television Systems Committee, Washington, D.C.;
  Advanced Television Test Center, Alexandria, Virginia;
  Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Advanced Television Program,
  Cambridge, Massachusetts;
  Konnie Schaefer and Associates, Washington, D.C.;
  Department of State, Washington, D.C.;
  Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C.;
  National Telecommunications Information Administration, Washington,
  DC;
. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Mary-
  land; and
. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Virginia.

    Additionally, we reviewed State Department files and responses to the
    National Telecommunications Information Administration notice of
    inquiry to determine international activities in adopting a worldwide
    production standard and U.S. industries’ position on the adoption of a
    single worldwide production standard. We also reviewed responses to
    the Federal Communications Commission’s notice of inquiry to deter-
    mine US. industries’ position on the selection of a domestic transmission
    standard.

    In assessing the impact of adopting production and transmission stan-
    dards, we focused on the use of HDTV as an entertainment medium. We
    did not attempt to assess the effect that the adoption of a production
    standard could have on the U.S. computer industry, including the semi-
    conductor industry.

    Our work was conducted from June to December 1989, in accordance
    with generally accepted government auditing standards. Our work was
    conducted either at the locations cited above or the Washington, D.C.
    metropolitan area. We did not obtain official agency comments on this
    report, however, during our review we discussed our findings with cog-
    nizant industry and government officials, Their comments have been
    incorporated into this report where appropriate.




    Page 15            GAO/IMTEG90-33    Effecta of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
Appendix II

CCIR Efforts to Adopt a worldwide HDTV
Woduction Standard

                     The International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) is an interna-
                     tional voluntary standards setting body. The CCIR'S role is to study and
                     adopt recommendations on technical and operating issues relating to
                     radiocommunication. It is a permanent section of the International Tele-
                     communications Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The
                     CUR is divided into 11 study groups that research radio and television
                     broadcasting issues and make recommendations for adoption by the full
                     CUR membership. The full membership meets at the Plenary meetings,
                     held once every 4 years, and votes to adopt the study group’s recom-
                     mendations The CCIHrepresents about 160 countries. The State Depart.
                     ment is the official 1J.S.representative to the CCIR.

                     The following sections describe (1) the CCIR'S initial interest in HDTV as a
                     result of Japanese research and development, (2) the U.S. position on a
                     worldwide production standard,’ (3) the CUR'S efforts to adopt a world-
                     wide HDW production standard, and (4) the current status of ccm alter-
                     natives to a single worldwide production standard.


Early Research and   The Japanese-who have been involved in HDTV development for over
Development           15 years-have developed an entire HDTV system, including production,
                     transmission, and display and related equipment, such as studio cam-
                     eras, videocassette recorders and television sets. The original Japanese
                     IIDTVsystem was based on a 1125/59.94 production standard. The
                     standard was interlace scan’ with 1125 scanning lines (the horizontal
    1                lines that make up a television picture), a 59.94 field rate (the number of
                     times per second a field, or half the complete television picture, is
                     refreshed), and a 5:3 aspect ratio (the width of the picture compared to
                     its height).

                     The Japanese HDTV system generated a great deal of interest among
                     members of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
                     (SMITE), an international professional organization that develops volun-
                     tary standards. They were interested in determining the technical viabil-
                     ity of the Japanese production standard. SMPTE reviewed the Japanese
                     standard and made two modifications. First, the field rate was changed



                     ‘A production standard is a set of technical specifications that determine how audio and visual infor-
                     mation is created and recorded.

                     “Interlace scanning traces the lines of a television picture in two parts, or fields, and interweaves
                     them to create an entire television picture.



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                          Appendix II
                          CCIR Efforts to Adopt a Worldwide       HDTV
                          Production Standard




                          from 59.94 to 60 to simplify editing.:’ Second, the aspect ratio was
                          changed from 5:3 to 16:9 to accommodate Hollywood’s preference for a
                          wider screen. Japanese companies incorporated the changes and began
                          manufacturing equipment for the 1125/60 production standard.
                          Although the resulting standard, 1125/60, is officially called SMITE
                          24OM, it is often referred to as the Japanese standard.

                          Throughout their efforts to develop IIDTV, the Japanese had continually
                          submitted documents to the CCIR noting their progress. As a result, in the
                          early 198Os, the CCIRbecame interested in HDTV and initiated efforts to
                          adopt a worldwide IIDTV production standard. The State Department, as
                          part of its role as the IJS. representative to the CCIR, initiated action to
                          develop a U.S. position on a worldwide production standard.


U.S. Position on a        In the IJnited States, the Advanced Television Systems Committee
Worldwide Product #ion    (A’I’sc), was established to develop HDTV standards and to develop a U.S.
                          position on a worldwide production standard for the State Department
Stanbard                  to propose to the CUR. ATSC considered the 1125/60 standard as a world-
                          wide standard because it had been approved by SMPTE as technically via-
                          ble and because 1125/60 equipment was already available. Some
                          members, however, expressed reservations about 1125/60 as the world-
                          wide production standard because they preferred a progressive scan
                          standard.4 However, ATEE members agreed to support 1125/60 because it
                          appeared that it would be adopted as the worldwide production stand-
                          ard. As a result, ~‘rsc:approved the 1125/60 standard and recommended
                          that the State Department support it as a worldwide HDTV production
                          standard at the 1986 CCIR Plenary meeting.


CCIR Efforts to Adopt a   At the CCIR’S 1986 Plenary meeting, the United States and Japan pro-
Worldwide Standard        posed 1125/60 as a worldwide HDTV production standard. The European
                          Community, however, opposed the 1125/60 production standard, pri-
                          marily for political and economic reasons, rather than technical. Many
                          believe that the European Community-in      the interest of protecting
                          European television manufacturers from Japanese competition-
                          rejected the 1125/60 standard because they believed the adoption of the
                          standard would provide the .Japanese a marketing advantage in con-
                          sumer equipment such as television sets and videocassette recorders. In

                          “‘l’he choice of A0 instead of 59.94 allows a perfect relationship between actual clock time and tape
                          time.

                          “A progrwsivc! system scans the lines of a television picture sequentially.



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Appendix II
CCIR Efforts to Adopt a Worldwide   HDTV
Production Standard




addition, Europe wants to promote sales of its own programs and films.
The U.S. motion picture industry supplies about 30 percent of the pro-
grams shown on European television and adoption of a worldwide pro-
duction standard would make it easier for U.S. programming to be
shown in Europe.

Officially, however, the European Community opposed 1125/60 as a
worldwide production standard because of its field rate. They argued
that programs produced using the 1125/60 standard would require con-
version in European countries where the field rate is 50. Converters did
not yet exist and concerns were raised about the degradation (loss of
picture detail) and cost of converting 1125/60 programming to a field
rate of 50.

At CUR’S request, the Japanese developed equipment to convert 1125/60
programs to a field rate of 50. The conversion process was acceptable to
CCIR participants, including the European members. Despite the success-
ful conversion, however, the European Community continued to reject
the 1125/60 standard as a worldwide production standard, and began
development of their own HDTV system, 1250/50 (1250 scanning lines
and 50 fields per second). The European Community has recommended
its standard to the CUR for consideration as a worldwide HDTV produc-
tion standard.

However, a field rate of 50 is unacceptable to the United States and
Japan. A lower field rate updates the television picture less often. This
results in inferior motion portrayal, such as blurring, and a flicker in the
picture; a rapid visible change in brightness that occurs when the pic-
ture does not change often enough for the human eye. Conversions from
a field rate of 50 to 59.94 are difficult. Although such conversions are
technically possible, converting from a lower field rate is more difficult
than converting in the other direction because additional fields have to
be created.

When it became clear that 1125/60 would not be accepted as the world-
wide production standard, U.S. industry consensus broke down. Many
believed that without a single worldwide production standard, the
United States should adopt an HDTV system compatible with its existing
conventional television standards and equipment. Both proposed stan-
dards, 1125/60 and 1250/50, are designed for satellite transmission, but
the primary transmission medium in the United States is over-the-air
broadcast.



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                            Appendix II
                            CCIR Efforts to Adopt a Worldwide   HDTV
                            Production Standard




                            Several organizations, including television manufacturers, began devel-
                            oping HDTV prototype systems that could be transmitted over-the-air in
                            the United States. One prototype has a 1050/59.94 production standard;
                            1050 scanning lines, 59.94 fields per second, 16:9 aspect ratio, and inter-
                            lace scanning. This standard was suggested because of its relationship to
                            our current television standard, 525/59.94. Some manufacturers believe
                            that doubling the scanning lines from 525 to 1050 and maintaining the
                            same field rate will simplify conversions. However, 1050/59.94 produc-
                            tion equipment does not yet exist. In October 1988, the National Broad-
                            casting Corporation asked SMPTE to approve the 1050/59.94 standard.
                            SMPTE is currently reviewing the standard.

                            Zenith has been developing a prototype system, 785.5/59.94 which has
                            787.5 scanning lines, 59.94 fields per second, 16:9 aspect ratio, and pro-
                            gressive scanning. Progressive scanning provides high resolution
                            because all the information is contained in one frame or television pic-
                            ture. However, a progressively scanned system requires more
                            bandwidth (information capacity available to transmit a television sig-
                            nal) than an interlaced system. In addition, the field rate of 59.94 main-
                            tains compatibility with the current U.S. transmission system. Zenith
                            has recently submitted its production standard to SMPTE for technical
                            review.


Curr;‘ent Statu s of CCIR   With the current controversy surrounding adoption of a worldwide pro-
Activities                  duction standard, it appears unlikely that CCIR participants will reach
                            agreement in the near-term. As a result, the United States and other CCIR
                            representatives proposed common image format as an interim step
                            toward adopting a worldwide standard. Common image format is an
                            effort to agree on common parameters that define the picture in a pro-
                            duction standard. Such parameters include the number of scanning lines,
                            aspect ratio, and color. The more parameters in common, the easier it is
                            to convert between production standards. It is highly unlikely that CCIR
                            members will agree to a common field rate because that appears to be
                            the greatest technical obstacle to a worldwide standard.

                            As of October 1989, CUR'S Study Group 11 members have agreed to 23
                            of 34 parameters. They must unanimously agree to the individual
                            parameters before they can present them to the full CCIR membership at
                            the Plenary Meeting in May 1990. They are scheduled to meet again in
                            March 1990 in an attempt to get agreement on the remaining parame-
                            ters, but not field rate.



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    Appendix II
    CCIR Efforts to Adopt a Worldwide   HDTV
    Production Standard




    Another approach, common data rate, has been proposed for worldwide
    adoption by several European countries and other CCIR representatives.
    Common data rate is an agreement on the rate at which information
    flows through a tape recorder, however, it is not a substitute for a
    worldwide production standard. Common data rate could benefit tape
    recorder manufacturers by eliminating the need for several production
    lines. If the data rates of the production standards selected are similar,
    manufacturers could produce a recorder that could be used for two dif-
    ferent production standards.

    The effects of common image format and common data rate are unclear.
    It is unlikely that common image format or common data rate will result
    in the development of a single worldwide production standard. Since
    field rate will not be decided, there will be at least two production stan-
    dards; a standard with a field rate of 60, and a standard with a field
/   rate of 50. Common data rate controls only the flow of information con-
    tained in the production standard.

    Some industry representatives suspect that common image format is an
    attempt to allow the United States time to develop its own HDTV produc-
    tion and transmission standards, while others acknowledge that it keeps
    CCIR countries negotiating and working toward a single worldwide pro-
    duction standard.




    Page 20            GAO/IMTEG90-33     Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
      1

‘Appendix III

Mqjor Contributors to This Report


                      Linda D. Koontz, Assistant Director
Infcjrmation          Deborah A. Davis, Evaluator-in-Charge
Mariagement and       Karen A. Rrown, Evaluator
Technology Division
Wa$hington,D.C.




                      Page 21       GAO/IMTEG90-33   Effects   of HDTV Standards   on Entertainment   Industries
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