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PBS to Experiment With Interactive TV

April 19, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Viewers in some areas will get to experiment with two-way television early next year on Public Broadcasting Service channels, PBS and interactive programming developer TV Answer announced Monday.

PBS is still deciding how to use TV Answer, but is expected to start with short shows that appear between regularly scheduled programs, according to a joint announcement.

Viewers would need a special set-top receiver to play along. Using a remote control device, the viewer would respond to multiple-choice questions on the screen by moving an arrow to the appropriate box.

A children’s show on dinosaurs might be accompanied by an on-screen question such as, ″Did any dinosaurs fly?″

A nutrition program would include questions like, ″Which is the lowest fat food - spaghetti, pizza or hot dogs?″

Public TV fund-raisers would include on-screen dollar amounts the viewer could check. Since each home receiver would be programmed with name, address and credit card information, the viewer would actually make the donation as he or she pledged.

The TV Answer facility in Reston, Va., would be notified whenever PBS intended to broadcast an interactive program.

TV Answer would send the on-screen questions to a satellite, which would relay them to cell sites around the country that would then transmit to the set-top receiver.

The viewer’s responses would follow a reverse route to the TV Answer facility, which would transmit them to the public TV station.

None of this can begin, however, until the Federal Communications Commission issues licenses for interactive programming. The markets that will get the first round of licenses are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Houston.

Viewers who want to talk back to their sets will have to buy the set-top receiver being manufactured by the Hewlett-Packard Co. and expected to sell for about $500.

TV Answer has invested about $100 million in its interactive technology, said spokesman Paul Sturiale. The firm envisions that the technology will be used for entertainment and educational programming, banking, buying consumer goods and other functions that would put the television set in competition with the telephone or personal computer.

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