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Commissioner Susan Ness
Remarks on the Launch of DTV Express
Washington, D.C.
March 23, 1998

(as prepared for delivery)

Thank you very much, Phil. I am honored to join Ervin and you this morning to launch the Digital TV Express.

I congratulate PBS and Harris for originating and supporting this traveling demonstration. Few consumers have experienced their first high definition program, nor have they yet explored the wide range of data and other program services made possible through digital transmission.

As one who has labored in the regulatory vineyards, I am particularly excited to witness digital television being transformed from concept to reality.

And as a long-time supporter of public broadcasting, I am especially proud that PBS has taken a leadership role in shaping and harnessing the enormous educational potential of digital television. Through your commitment, tenacity and vision, Ervin, public broadcasting is at the forefront of the digital television revolution.

We are in a period of dynamic technological change, not just for broadcasting, but for a wide range of communications services. This era poses exciting challenges for both industry and consumers.

For manufacturers, decisions must be made on the type of equipment to manufacture, as well as the features and prices of TV sets for a market that does not yet exist.

For broadcasters, critical decisions have to be made about formats and services to offer, as well as the type of equipment to buy. Many of the inputs to these decisions are still on the drawing board.

For consumers, for the first time ever, the digital broadcast revolution will leave their existing analog television sets behind. Digital television is not backward compatible, unlike all of the prior changes in broadcast technology.

Consumers will be blessed with a cornucopia of new and exciting services. But at some point in the future, their present television sets will no longer work without the aid of a decoder box or a satellite or cable converter box.

I am convinced that consumers will embrace the promise of digital television once its benefits are understood and sampled. Your Digital TV Express will help opinion leaders and consumers to begin that critical transition.

To capture the imagination -- and the pocketbooks -- of consumers, digital broadcasting will require:

(1) a critical mass of stations to be on the air;
(2) attractive digital programming and new data services to be transmitted; and
(3) affordable television sets.

The regulatory battles are largely a thing of the past. Now programmers and other information providers, equipment manufacturers, and broadcasters must meet the challenges ahead.

It's hard to believe, but this November "the show begins."

Broadcasters will begin transmitting programs in digital in the top markets across the country. Selected network shows and sporting events will be broadcast in awesome true high definition. Data will begin to flow. Some DBS providers will expand digital offerings to consumers everywhere. And consumers will be able to purchase the first generation digital sets.

If all goes well, we expect that by the year 2003 all broadcasters will transmit in digital, and that by the year 2006 analog broadcasting will cease.

Broadcasting has become an important aspect of our daily life because it is available to everyone for the price of a relatively inexpensive TV set.

That our system of advertiser and public supported broadcasting have served the public very well is evidenced by 99 out of 100 families having at least one TV set in their homes -- and I note that many families have 4 or 5.

I do not know whether the TV and computer will converge to become a single piece of equipment -- a "PCTV," or a "TVPC" -- or whether the signal will be routed separately to stand-alone computers and TVs.

But I am sure that as new and better services become available to the public, consumers will find some of these new services to be of tremendous benefit and use.

One of these uses will be to assist in better educating our youth. The improved resolution of high definition and the opportunity for data casting and targeted programming will provide an invaluable educational resource for the classroom.

Once again, my thanks to PBS and to Harris for stepping up to the plate and taking education about digital television on the road. I know that one of your demos has Bill Nye "The Science Guy" explaining digital TV. It's great!

Thank you, and roll on!