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HDTV Basics Explained

Can You Record It? The Broadcast Flag

With traditional television and cable, you can record any show using a VCR or Digital Video Recorder (Tivo, All-in-Wonder). These recordings can be kept for as long as you want. This changes with HDTV. The FCC has ruled that content owners (movie studios, broadcasting companies, etc.) can implement a "Broadcast Flag" into their programming. This flag will instruct the HDTV device to either prevent the program from being recorded or to prevent the device from playing back a previous recording.

The Broadcast Flag is used when you receive HDTV from an antenna. Things are different when you use digital cable or satellite TV, as the copy protection is built into the cable box or the satellite box. It appears that Hollywood did a run around the FCC by doing its own copy protection.

Until July 2005 you can buy an HDTV tuner card that will ignore the broadcast flag. However, all cards made after July 2005 will not be able to record as they will have circuitry that reads the broadcast flag.


Obtaining HDTV is not difficult at all, if you break everything down methodically. You first start with a TV. Then you get a tuner, which may be included with the TV. Finally you connect an antenna, cable or satellite.

The quality of the sound and video are definitely better, but only with shows that are broadcasted in native HDTV format. Some stations such as CBS have switched all of their prime-time shows to HDTV, while other channels are playing catch-up. HDTV is visibly exciting technology, if you can put up with the relatively high prices and limited availability of programming.