Don't Delay Tuners, NAB Tells FCC

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The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Maximum Service Television (MSTV) will ask the Federal Communications Commission Monday to reject an effort by the consumer-electronics industry to delay the July 1, 2005, deadline for having digital-TV tuners in at least one-half of all TV sets shipped.

"If CEA's stated goal is to speed the DTV transition, then the last thing it should be seeking is a delay only to sell more analog TV sets," said NAB President Eddie Fritts Monday.

In 2002, the FCC approved the tuner mandate. It was adamantly opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association, which sued to block it. It was upheld by federal appeals judges, though CEA says it now favors accelerating the deadline, saying it could go all-tuner by March 2006 if the FCC drops this summer's 50% deadline.

House Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) has been keeping the pressure on broadcasters to go all-digital as soon as possible. Now he wants TV makers to pitch in, too.

Last week, Barton said he and other committee leaders will ask the FCC to accelerate its deadline for mandating that nearly all digital TV sets contain tuners capable of receiving stations over-the-air digital signals.
Barton has told the story of trying to buy a TV set in his home state of Texas, where he says the salesperson assured him an anolog set would be fine because Congress was not going to do anything about the DTV transition anytime soon.

Currently, all DTV sets 13-inches and larger must have the tuners by July 1, 2007; Barton now wants the deadline move up to "late 2005 or early 2006."

Barton told broadcasters in Las Vegas for their annual convention Monday that he will have a bill ready in two-three weeks imposing a hard date for the DTV transition. Currently, the Dec. 31, 2006 date has an "escape clause" of sorts that prevents the reclamation of analog frequencies in any market where fewer than 85% of the households can receive a digitail signal.

Fritts Monday also asked set makers to "immediately begin warning consumers of the possible obsolescence of analog TV sets, and to fully embrace the FCC's DTV tuner timetable."

A CEA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

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