Less Than Three Weeks to Final DTV Transition – The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is gearing up for a final push to make sure consumers are ready for the end of analog telecasting services on June 12. All those with analog TV sets receiving their signals OTS (Over The Air) for free – who have not taken advantage of the government program for discounted (or free) converter boxes – will lose all their TV signals that day. Over one-third of U.S. full-power stations already have ceased analog broadcasts and now put out only digital signals, but June 12 is the deadline for all stations (except a few specialized-audience low-power outlets) to join them.
According to a Nielsen survey, 3.5 million households or 3.1% of U.S. TV households, were still completely unready for the DTV transition. In its outreach program the FCC is giving special attention to low-income individuals, minority communities, non-English-speaking consumers, seniors, the disabled, and those living in rural areas or on tribal lands. 180 FCC employees have been dispatched to 49 different markets having the greatest concentrations of unprepared households. The DTV web site – www.dtv.gov – has been revamped to be more useful to consumers. Up to 400 walk-in centers and 12,000 DTV help clinics across the country have been set up to offer consumers hands-on assistance on connecting and operating converter boxes, and to help in ordering converter box coupons. An FCC phone help line has been set up at 1-888-225-5322 to troubleshoot common problems, and a 15-page booklet “DTV Made Easy,” may be downloaded from the web site. The DTV transition benefits consumers by delivering better picture quality and sound, more channels and more programs, even without purchase of a new DTV set. At the same time it frees up spectrum which will make possible improved communication between police, fire and other emergency services. It may also result in a nationwide satellite-delivered broadband Internet service. Coupons for converter boxes are still available at the DTV web site or by calling 1-888-388-2009.
RealNetworks Battling Movie Studios to Save Its DVD-Copying Application – Six major studios have sued RealNetworks, trying to block consumers from making “fair use” copies of their DVDs using the company’s RealDVD copying software and Facet hardware device. RealNetworks has filed their own lawsuit charging the studios with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, California Unfair Competition Law and others. The studio lawsuit is joined by the DVD CCA, the licensing body for CSS, the copy protection used on all commercial DVDs. Real has a CSS license but the studio and CCA claim it only allows them to make DVD products, not software to copy movies from the disc. Real claims their products allow consumers to make backup copies of movies from DVDs they have purchased, while keeping copy protection in place. The legal filing comes as RealNetworks continues to develop its Facet recorder-player, which is not yet on the market. Real has spent $6 million on legal fees so far just in the first quarter of this year.
NAD Launches Direct Digital Amplifier – The Masters Series M2 Direct Digital Amp from NAD Electronics is said to be the first true digital amp to fully exploit the high resolution of HD audio. It can be thought of as a D-to-A converter directly driving stereo speakers. Its technology is said to surpass Class D amps, and deliver Class A sound with Class D efficiency. The M2 can deliver 250 watts per channel, and is the first audio amp to use high-speed digital error correction to reduce distortion, as well as a new technology called Direct Digital Feedback. It accepts PCM inputs directly but would require a separate analog preamp for all analog sources to feed its built-in A-to-D input. The M2 has a RS-232 serial interface to allow control from a PC or control systems such as Crestron or AMX. The amp will be available this summer at an SRP of $5,999.