CEA Fires Back in Tuner Battle


The Consumer Electronics Association fired back at the National Association of Broadcasters Tuesday, saying that broadcasters should "stop pushing for regulations on other industries, 'remove its shackles' and market the value of its digital service to consumers," in the words of CEA president Gary Shapiro.

Monday, NAB President Eddie Fritts called on CEA to drop its bid to delay the FCC's July 1, 2006, deadline for shipping at least half of all new TV sets with integrated DTV tuners, to "immediately begin warning consumers of the possible obsolescence of analog TV sets, and to fully embrace the FCC's DTV tuner timetable."

Both Fritts and Shapiro are in Las Vegas for the annual NAB convention.

"How the NAB can distort the facts and accuse CEA of delaying the DTV roll out with our proposal is unfathomable," Shapiro fired back in a statement. "CEA is requesting the Federal Communications Commission advance the deadline for manufacturers to include digital tuners in all televisions with screens sized 25- to 36-inches from July 1, 2006, to March 1, 2006.  In exchange, the association is urging the Commission to eliminate the July 1, 2005, deadline that requires 50 percent of sets offered for sale in this size range include a digital tuner."

CEA opposed the tuner mandate, pointing out that fewer than 15% of TV homes rely on antennas for their TV.

If broadcasters want to advance the DTV transition rather than regulate others into "wimpish, milquetoast media," the path broadcasting is on Shapiro suggested , they should:

*Promote free over-the-air broadcasting. 

* Shift to HDTV quickly and promote DTV on analog channels. 

* Support a hard cut-off date for analog broadcasts.

* Defend the First Amendment.

Each side blames the other for delaying the digital roll-out in what has become an ongoing chicken-and-egg debate.

Broadcasters offer the "if you build it, they will come" argument that until there is a critical mass of TV sets that can receive an over-the-air digital signal, there is no incentive to deliver the sharp pictures and extra services of digital TV. Consumer electron incs manufacturers argue that without the quality content and services, there is no incentive to build sets with integrated tuners, and there may not be incentive even with that content if most viewers are getting it via cable or satellite anyway (the "we can build it, but they are already somewhere else" argument).