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Cyber chips

What is a V-chip? This term has become a buzz word for any discussion evolving

telecommunications regulation and television ratings, but not too many reports define the

new technology in its fullest form. A basic definition of the V-chip; is a microprocessor

that can decipher information sent in the vertical blanking of the NTSC signal,

purposefully for the control of violent or controversial subject matter. Yet, the span of

the new chip is much greater than any working definition can encompass. A discussion of the

V-chip must include a consideration of the technical and ethical issues, in addition to

examining the constitutionally of any law that might concern standards set by the US

government. Yet in the space provided for this essay, the focus will be the technical

aspects and costs of the new chip. It is impossible to generally assume that the V-chip

will solve the violence problem of broadcast television or that adding this little device

to every set will be a first amendment infringement. We can, however, find clues through

examining the cold facts of broadcast television and the impact of a mandatory regulation

on that free broadcast. "Utilizing the EIA's Recommended Practice for Line 21 Data

Service(EIA-608) specification, these chips decode EDS (Extended Data Services)program

ratings, compare these ratings to viewer standards, and can be programmed to take a variety

of actions, including complete blanking of programs." Is one definition of the V-chip from

Al Marquis of Zilog Technology. The FCC or Capitol Hill has not set any standards for

V-chip technology; this has allowed many different companies to construct chips that are

similar yet not exact or possibly not compatible. Each chip has advantages and

disadvantages for the rating's system, soon to be developed. For example, some units use

onscreen programming such as VCR's and the Zilog product do, while others are considering

set top options. Also, different companies are using different methods of parental control

over the chip.

Another problem that these new devices may incur when included in every television is a

space. The NTSC signal includes extra information space known as the subcarrier and Vertical

blanking interval. As explained in the quotation from Mr. Marquis, the V-chips will use a

certain section of this space to send simple rating numbers and points that will be compared

to the personality settings in the chip. Many new technologies are being developed for

smart-TV or data broadcast on this part of the NTSC signal. Basically the V-chip will

severely limit the bandwidth for high performance transmission of data on the NTSC signal.

There is also to be cost to this new technology, which will be passed to consumers.

Estimates are that each chip will cost six dollars wholesale and must be designed into the

television's logic. The V-chip could easily push the price of televisions up by twenty five

or more dollars during the first years of production. The much simpler solution of set top

boxes allows control for those who need it and allow those consumers who don't to save

money and use new data technology. Another cost will most definitely be levied to

television advertisers for the upgrade of the transmitting equipment. Weather the V-chip

encoding signal is added upstream of the transmitter or directly into uplink units and

other equipment intended for broadcast; this cost will have to compensated for in

advertising sales and prices. The V-chip regulation may also require another staff employee

at most stations to effectively rate locally aired programs and events. All three of these

questions have been addressed in minute detail. Most debate has focused upon the new rating

system and its implementation. Though equally important, this doesn't deal with the ground

floor concerns for the television producing and broadcasting industries. Now as members of

the industry we must hold our breath until either the fed knocks the wind from free

broadcast with mandatory ratings' devices, or allows the natural regulation to continue.



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