FCC Proposes Extending DTV-Set -Deadline

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TV manufacturers would not be required to meet this summer’s deadline for building digital-TV tuners into their popular midsized sets under a proposal the Federal Communications Commission is considering.

In response to a petition by the Consumer Electronics Association, the FCC Monday proposed eliminating a July 1 deadline that requires 50% of TV sets between 25 and 36 inches include a tuner that will enable reception of TV stations’ digital signals. In return, set makers have offered to include digital tuners in all of sets that size by March 1, 2006, three months earlier than they are now required.

CEA argues that sticking with the 50% deadline accomplishes nothing beyond filling warehouses with unsold sets. That’s because customers who buy sets 36 inches and smaller tend to choose less-expensive models rather than those with pricier options. Until all sets contain DTV turners—a step that will bring down the price of the receivers—the devices will add roughly $180 or more to the costs of any set.

The FCC imposed the DTV tuner mandate in 2002 to speed viewers’ transition to digital TV's. Regulators feared that unless manufacturers were required to add digital receivers, consumers would continue buying analog-only sets for years and the day when stations go all digital would be further delayed.

TV stations will not be required to go all-digital and shut-off their analog signals until 85% of TV homes are equipped to receive digital programming either other the air or via pay-TV.

All TV sets, including those 24-inches and smaller, must also incorporate DTV tuners by July 1, 2007. The FCC said it is not contemplating any change to the 2007 deadline.

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