Martin: Shortage of Battery-Powered DTV-Converter Gear

FCC chairman urges CEA, CERC to push members to make more battery-powered DTV-to-analog converter boxes, battery packs available.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said there is a shortage of battery-powered digital-TV-to-analog converter boxes and battery packs that would allow those boxes to operate with battery-powered TVs.

In a letter Tuesday to Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, and Christopher McLean, executive director of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition, Martin said he was "encouraging the availability" of the battery packs, pointing out that viewers rely on them for emergency information.

The first such pack was pitched in Wilmington, N.C., by Winegard, but it only works with the Winegard converter box.

Martin also said very few battery-powered converter boxes -- Winegard's is an adapter -- are available, and those are "often out of stock … It does not appear that the market is meeting consumer demand for these devices. Please consult with your members and let me know when we might expect to see more such products in the market."

That letter followed one to McLean last week suggesting that there were not enough $40 converter boxes on the shelves. That letter came the same day as a House Commerce Committee DTV-oversight hearing at which Martin was testifying.

Tuesday's letter, which was posted on the FCC Web site, came on the same day Martin was testifying at the Senate Commerce Committee's DTV-oversight hearing.

“The CEA received chairman Martin’s letter and appreciates his continued efforts in support of the nation’s successful transition to digital television Feb. 17, 2009,”a CEA spokesman said. “As the chairman notes in his letter, consumer-electronics manufacturers are responding to nascent market demand by making battery powered converter boxes and portable digital televisions available to consumers. We will share chairman Martin’s letter with CEA member companies and continue, together with our government and industry partners, to educate consumers about all of their options for transitioning to DTV.”