History of digital Television

December 13, 2021
The History of Digital

Recent work from the scholars who study Internet speeds find the United States has fallen behind in its broadband development. Comparisons with Asian counterparts such as Singapore and South Korea underscores the success that some countries have had in leapfrogging ahead of our nation by offering ubiquitous fiber-to-the-premises capabilities to residential customers. The horse-race nature of this narrative is reminiscent of a similar history that played out on the world stage a few decades ago. Retracing the chronology of digital television’s development can illustrate that organizing tomorrow’s policies around today’s technologies may be extremely difficult and unwise for the public interest.

The Rise of Japan and HDTV

During the 1980s, Japan emerged as an economic superpower. A centerpiece of that country’s strategy was the development of the service economy and the creation of an information society. The strength of the government-led industrial policy initiatives led Japan to forecast that by the year 2000, fully one-third of its industrial investment would be in manufacturing related to information technologies.

Among the most important national projects to support this goal was High Definition Television (HDTV). Japan created an intricate web of direct and indirect supports for HDTV development, including R&D activities; integrated circuit design; and development of camera equipment, optical recording technologies, bandwidth compression equipment and CRT, LCD and projection display units. An all-star lineup of Japanese companies worked together in close cooperation (and absent any antitrust scrutiny) to create an HDTV juggernaut.

The American HDTV Market

Acceptance by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of either the Japanese or European HDTV technical standards would enable American consumers to benefit from the enhanced clarity of television images that were not hampered by an antiquated 525-horizontal line system that had been approved by the FCC in the 1940s. As with today’s broadband network speed race, advocates quickly lined up to convince the FCC that the US was hurting consumer welfare, by not allowing new HDTV into the marketplace.

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Source: www.brookings.edu
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