Thanks to federal regulators, television viewers soon could buy clothes, register their political opinions and even order pizza . . . without ever leaving their sofas.
Under a system proposed by the Federal Communications Commission, viewers could use a remote control to send information such as size, color or their credit card number through a small box on top of the television set.Viewers now must make a telephone call to buy from a TV home shopping service or respond to questions posed by TV news programs.
The FCC on Thursday proposed setting up a special frequency for the new system, which uses radio transmitters and bounces the signals off satellites.
The proposal to open the broadcast frequency to interactive video is part of an effort to expand the range of bands available to the public, said FCC Chairman Alfred Sikes.
"It is essential that we have an innovation-friendly FCC," Sikes said.
The radio-signal system would allow viewers to interact with TV stations in a wide variety of ways, said Sally Olmsted, a marketer at TV Answer Inc., a developer and manufacturer of the unique system.
Viewers buying goods from home shopping networks could send their orders via satellite directly to a warehouse, where the shipment could be assembled and sent.
Responses to public opinion polls could be compiled directly by news program producers.
The system could be expanded to allow viewers to order dinner, set up banking and bill-paying services or to allow students to take tests at home and send the answers back to school, she said.
TV Answer has been testing the service for two years in homes near its offices in Reston, Va., she said.
The FCC's temporary approval for wider use gives the system a place in the television spectrum near channel 13 in such a way that it does not interfere with other broadcast services, she said.
The system has been tested under an FCC experimental permit, she said.