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Zenith Launches HDTVs With Digital Closed Captioning Capability

Partners With WGBH to Demonstrate New Technology

The first high-definition television (HDTV) sets incorporating new digital closed caption capability are rolling off the production lines, consistent with today's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deadline.

A driving force behind both digital television (DTV) and closed captions, Zenith Electronics Corporation today began production of digital HDTVs capable of providing digital closed captioning services to the deaf and hearing- impaired. Unlike analog closed captions, digital caption capability (based on the EIA-708 standard) provides tremendous flexibility and greater user control over caption display, including font style, text size and color, and backgrounds.

In a related development, Zenith announced today that it will join with WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and its DTV Access Project to demonstrate digital closed captioning in the Nation's Capitol beginning this week. At back-to-back conferences -- the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) 2002 conference and Gallaudet University's Deaf Way II -- NCAM will demonstrate the first fully implemented EIA-708B caption decoder using Zenith's new integrated HDTVs.

"It's been a long road to finally see HDTV sets with closed captions -- and Zenith has been a driving force in setting the standards and getting the equipment on the market," said NCAM Director Larry Goldberg. "We're thrilled to be able to show Zenith's first caption-ready HDTVs to the deaf community at these vitally important events."

WGBH's digital closed-captioned programs will be shown to NAD attendees July 6 at Washington's Marriott Wardman Park Hotel and to the Deaf Way II conference at the D.C. Convention Center on July 9. Closed-captioned programs created by WGBH will be displayed at both events on Zenith's new direct-view digital HDTVs soon to be available at retail: the 34-inch C34W23 widescreen integrated HDTV, the 36-inch C36V23 integrated HDTV, and the 32-inch C32V23, which is the industry's first integrated HDTV priced under $1,500.

In addition to originating nearly one-third of PBS's prime-time programming, Boston's WGBH is widely credited with pioneering closed captioning and video descriptions for TV broadcasting. Zenith has worked closely with WGBH in the implementation of digital closed captioning in its HDTVs, just as it did in 1991 with its analog TV products capable of displaying closed captioning.

"As with analog closed captions more than a decade ago, Zenith is proud to pave the way for bringing closed captions into the digital era," said Ken Lee, senior vice president, sales and marketing. "Implementation of flexible new digital closed captions, pioneered by WGBH, further enhances digital TV's capabilities, making HDTV more accessible to all Americans."

Two years ago the FCC declared that consumer electronics manufacturers would be required to include compliant closed-captioning decoder circuitry in digital TV devices beginning July 1, 2002. Consumer equipment covered under the FCC Report and Order includes DTV sets with integrated widescreen displays measuring at least 7.8 inches vertically, DTV sets with conventional displays measuring at least 13 inches vertically, and stand-alone DTV tuners.

Closed captioning is an access technology that allows persons with hearing disabilities to appreciate and understand television programming. Captioning displays the audio portion of programming as text superimposed over the video. Closed captioning information is encoded and transmitted along the video signal of television broadcasts. In order to display closed captions, viewers must either use a TV receiver with integrated decoder circuitry or a set-top decoder.

An early advocate of closed captioning, Zenith was the first manufacturer to introduce analog TVs with built-in Line 21 closed caption capability in 1991, before required by law. Zenith also was instrumental in building industry support for and securing congressional passage of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. That law requires that analog TV receivers with screens 13 inches or larger contain built-in circuitry designed to display closed-captioned transmissions.

Zenith's closed-caption leadership continued its long-time crusade on behalf of hearing-impaired Americans. The company was an early pioneer in hearing aids, developing the industry's first affordable hearing aids beginning in 1938. During World War II, Zenith employed thousands of hearing- impaired workers producing hearing aids, the only consumer products Zenith built during the war. In later years, Zenith paved the way to transistorized hearing aids and led the industry crusade on behalf of the hard of hearing.

The CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), part of the Media Access Group at Boston public broadcaster WGBH, is leading an unprecedented cross-country effort to enable digital television stations to deliver closed captioning and video description services to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.

Through its DTV Access Project ( www.dtvaccess.org ), NCAM works with broadcasters, professional and consumer electronics manufacturers and industry standards bodies to support implementation of these vital access services. FCC mandates require all stations to have DTV signals on the air by 2003, while a variety of requirements to transmit and receive closed captioning and video description are now in effect.

NCAM, The Caption Center and the Descriptive Video Service make up the Media Access Group at WGBH, which this year marks three decades as the leader in developing media access solutions which benefit industry and the nation's 36 million viewers with sensory disabilities. WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime- time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, du-Pont- Columbia Awards -- even two Oscars.

DTV Access project funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Television Future Fund, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research/U.S. Department of Education and the NCAM Business Partners Program.

Zenith Electronics Corporation, founded in 1918, is a leader in digital television technologies and inventor of the U.S. digital HDTV transmission system adopted by the FCC. Zenith's Emmy award winning technologies include digital HDTV, flat-screen CRTs, stereo television and TV remote controls. For 2002, Zenith is capitalizing on its digital HDTV leadership and on the extensive technologies and resources of its parent company, LG Electronics Inc. (LGE). Zenith's corporate headquarters are in Lincolnshire, Ill. Visit us on the World Wide Web at www.zenith.com.

SOURCE Zenith Electronics Corporation

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