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Broadcasters Want Converters On Shelves By January

5/15/2007 03:12:00 AM Eastern

The National Association of Broadcasters wants assurances from equipment makers and sellers that digital-to-analog converter boxes will be on all store shelves by January 2008.

In a letter to the Consumer Electronics Association, NAB President David Rehr front loaded it with praise for CEA efforts as part of the DTV Transition Coalition and its support for the FCc's May 25 deadline for manufacturers to tell consumers that analog sets will not work with over the air transmissions after February 2009.

But the sting was in the tail. Rehr said he wanted to "highlight the importance" of an indusdtry commitment to have those converter boxes in stock at "all consumer electronics retail stores on Jan. 1, 2008...As I'm sure you are both aware," he wrote CEA President Gary Shapiro and Marc Pearl of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, "if boxes are not produced and on store shelves by Jan. 1, 2008, significant consumer confusion will result and could negatively impact the overall success of the transition."

At a Hill hearing in late March, one of the largest electronics retailers, Best Buy, declined to make that pledge, which did not sit well with the Ed Markey, chairman of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee, who told a Best Buy executive that 'yes' would have been the right answer.

At least one legislator expressed concern that retailers, rather than try to sell the $50 converters, will try to "up-sell" customers to the more expensive digital TV.

Pearl responded to the letter in an e-mail to B&C: “CERC members have taken an active interest in the NTIA CECB program and CERC has worked with NTIA to educate other retailers about the program, as well.CERC has pledged to post program registration guidance for all retailers, including non-members, on its web site as soon as it becomes available from NTIA.

"The next key point will be NTIA’s naming of a program contractor, who will be responsible for all implementation concept, structure, planning, and details, on or about August 15th. CERC very much appreciates NAB’s offer of assistance in assuring the earliest feasible implementation of the contractor’s program in matching it technologically to the varied retailer and commercial point of sale and payment systems and has confidence that NTIA will make an appropriate choice.”

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