The VChip Essay Research Paper The VChipWhat

The V-Chip Essay, Research Paper

The V-Chip

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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