LG Electronics finds itself in a unique position in the DTV transition. It’s not only pushing HD sets to help drive the DTV transition but also closely aligned with ATSC tuner development and the government’s desire to offer low-cost digital-to-analog set-top boxes that will allow digital signals to be displayed on analog TV sets. John Taylor, LG Electronics USA vice president, government relations, continues to spend his days working with various government entities, trade associations, and retailers to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Q: How is LG Electronics gearing up for the final DTV transition push?
A: We’re labeling our analog sets in English and Spanish, explaining that in February, 2009 you’ll need a converter box to be able to receive free over-the-air television. So a lot of that education is already happening. And the importance of consumer education as we head into the last steps of the transition can’t be overstated.
Q: Where do local stations fit into that educational effort?
A: The local broadcaster is really in the best position. They have wonderful resource in analog airwaves and between now and the end of the transition they can use that to communicate with consumers via PSAs, part of the news program or even a regular series of vignettes to explain the transition.
Q: Should they be working with local retailers?
A: Retailers are doing their part too because they, of course, have a vested interest in selling new DTV sets and the $60 converter boxes. And our plan right now is to have those boxes available in 2008 with the coupon program beginning in January.
Q: Speaking of receiver boxes, what’s the current state of the tuners and features like mobile reception?
A: We’re on the fifth generation chip and concerns over multipath interference are long gone. And we’re looking at mobile which is many years off when you look at the ATSC standards process and commercialization but it’s important for future utility of television. To have a digital Watchman you can take to the ballpark or camping is on the near horizons.
Also on March 1, 2007 all TV sets will have built in ATSC tuners. And its not just TVs. It’s anything that has a tuner. If your PC has an analog tuner it will have a digital one. If you have DVD recorders and VHS players those will have digital tuners. Even LG’s refrigerator with a TV will have to go digital.
Q: What about good old-fashioned tube TV sets? Do they have a future?
A: We have about 80 models in the U.S. and have only one CRT left. It’s a cool one, with reduced depth, but clearly our focus is on plasma and LCD.
Q: DTV reception interference from unlicensed devices seems to be a hot topic. Has LG taken a stance on that issue?
A: We’re concerned about anything that would derail the transition and cause interference to DTV signals. And it needs to be dealt with very strongly by the government and the onus should not be on the TV set maker. There’s discussion about adding spectrum sniffers to television sets to identify potential interference but to us that’s backwards. The onus is on the digital devices, not the TV sets. After all, they’re the new guys.
Interviewed by Ken Kerschbaumer