The V-Chip: An Overview
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