High-definition TV hopefuls sent back to the drawing board by FCC

February 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

VIENNA, VA — VIENNA, Va. -- A special committee advising the Federal Communications Commission concluded Thursday evening that all five of the systems competing to be picked as the U.S. high-definition television standard were flawed.

All of the competitors told the committee that they had made improvements to repair the problems that turned up in tests last year. So committee members said they would recommend that four of the five systems be retested to gauge those improvements. That could set back the schedule for the introduction of high-definition television by as much as a year.

Officials from the four chosen groups said Thursday they had begun talking about merging their systems into one -- an idea that the FCC committee's leaders have been promoting. The four groups are General Instrument Corp., a manufacturer of cable and satellite equipment; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a partnership of Zenith Electronics Inc. and AT&T; and a consortium including the David Sarnoff Research Center of Princeton, N.J., NBC, North American Philips Corp. and Thomson Consumer Electronics.

The fifth competitor, NHK of Japan, dropped out of the competition Wednesday night after it became clear that it could not win. That decision came as no surprise. NHK, the Japanese broadcasting network, was the only competitor not to offer a fully digital transmission system. Its test results were generally inferior to those of the other systems.

The four remaining systems all offer far crisper, clearer pictures than is possible on televisions in use today. And because the programming will be transmitted digitally, high-definition television promises to interact with computers and other devices, turning televisions into devices that can provide a host of services beyond TV reception.

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