The Federal Communications Commission's "TV tax" is under attack from House
Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who last week
introduced legislation to eliminate the commission's 2007 deadline for requiring
digital tuners in nearly all television sets.
"The FCC's mandate is comparable to requiring viewers to purchase an
expensive antenna when they already have cable," Sensenbrenner said, noting that
only 13 percent of viewers rely on over-the-air reception.
Sensenbrenner said at current estimates of $250 per set, a digital-TV-tuner mandate
would cost consumers in his state $140 million per year. Costs of digital-TV tuners are
expected to drop, however, as demand for digital sets grows.
The FCC imposed the mandate in August to speed the adoption of digital-TV-ready sets
and the phase-out of analog broadcasts.
The tuner requirement is opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association and
some of its member manufacturers.
Although the bill was unveiled just as Congress adjourned, Sensenbrenner
promised to reintroduce the legislation next year. It's doubtful that the legislation
will get much traction then, either. House Commerce and Energy Committee leaders,
to whom the bill will be assigned, support the tuner mandate.