Bush camp pressures set makers on DTV tuners


The Bush administration Thursday endorsed the harsh words Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell dished out against TV makers
for balking at his call to add digital tuners to nearly all sets.

In a speech to the Media Institute, the White House's top official for
telecommunications policy called TV manufacturers "the sole source of static"
clouding Powell's effort to speed the DTV transition.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Nancy Victory
urged the Consumer Electronics Association to reconsider its decision not to
"join the DTV team."

All industry sectors must commit to doing their part to support DTV,
including supplying HDTV and other high value digital programming and making
sure it gets to viewers.

"This chicken and egg conundrum is a real threshold hurdle," Victory said.
"Entities are reluctant to leap first into the great unknown without assurances
that others will follow the lead."

Last week Powell blasted CEA for rejecting his call to install DTV tuners in
most sets according to a strict timetable and called the group's counterproposal
"loaded down" with conditions that it amounted to "no commitment at all."

Yesterday CEA technology policy chief Michael Petricone defended the group's
position. "We're the only industry for which the chairman's proposal would
substantially raise the price of the product," he said. With DTV tuners costing
$200 or more, he said the price of a 13-inch set could more than double with the
inclusion of a digital receiver. "With most Americans getting TV through cable,
he is essentially asking us to add an expensive component most people will never

Powell in April asked set makers to equip half of sets 36 inches and larger
with DTV tuners by Jan. 1, 2004, 100 percent by Jan. 1, 2005; all sets 13 inches
and larger by Dec. 31, 2006.

Powell's request was part of a broader initiative urging all sectors of the
television business to step up their efforts to support DTV.

Compliance with the conditions is voluntary, but House Energy and Commerce
Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin is threatening tougher legislation if industry
sectors don't settle disputes. The country's top 10 operators have agreed to
carry up to five broadcast or other digital-programming services at the
beginning of next year.

Major network broadcasters to large markets have generally agreed to pass
through network DTV and the big broadcast and cable networks have agreed to
provide at least 50 percent of their prime time schedules in high definition or
interactive programming this fall.