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DTV Rollout Loophole

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In an effort to plug a loophole in the digital TV transition, broadcasters have asked the Federal Communications Commission to establish regulations to bar the sale of cable-ready digital TV monitors that can’t receive over-the-air broadcasts.
FCC regulations already require that starting in July 2004 consumer electronics manufacturers begin to include broadcast DTV tuners in sets that are also equipped with analog broadcast tuners. The requirement is intended to spur the DTV rollout by ensuring that most new sets are capable of receiving the signals.
But broadcast industry sources last week said there could be a major hitch in the FCC’s plan because existing regulations may not preclude sale of cable-ready DTV sets that don’t include an analog or a DTV broadcast tuner.
“The lack of 8VSB [broadcast DTV] tuning capability in cable-ready receivers would be contrary to the public interest, frustrate expectations of consumers and leave them with less capable devices, undermine the DTV tuner mandate and slow the DTV transition,” said the National Association of Broadcasters and Association for Maximum Service Television, in a joint filing at the FCC.
Agreement Pending
The solution, according to NAB and MSTV: Amend an agreement between the Consumer Electronics Association and National Cable & Telecommunications Association on DTV compatibility standards to include a broadcast tuner requirement. The proposed agreement is pending before the FCC.
“Consumers should be able to rely on this expectation so that the cable-ready DTV set they buy will continue to work off-air if they stop cable service, when the cable goes down temporarily, particularly in emergency situations, and when they buy a newer DTV and move the original DTV set into a noncable room,” the broadcast groups said.
At deadline, Brian Dietz, an NCTA spokesman, had no comment on NAB’s filing. “We will reply to the FCC in due course,” Mr. Dietz said.
Michael Petricone, VP of technology policy at CEA, said consumer electronics manufacturers-who are challenging the FCC’s existing DTV tuner requirement in court-“fully intend to follow the law.”