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08.03.2005 12:00AM
DTV Tuner Mandate Praised By NAB, Slammed by CEA
Will a faster mandatory deployment of DTV tuners be the salvation of HD and multicasting and other aspects of digital television as we know it, or serve as a weighty albatross around the industry's neck that will cause untold misery and needless heartbreak for the public? Depends, of course, on whether you ask the CEA or the NAB.

The CEA, which represents manufacturers and retailers, told the FCC that accelerating and expanding the commission's tuner requirements "will sharply raise prices on smaller-sized television sets, causing disruption in the marketplace and harming low-income consumers." The CEA filed comments in late July in response to the FCC's Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (FNPRM) on DTV receiving capability.

In the FNPRM issued in early June, the commission proposed to accelerate the current mandated timetable for DTV tuners in new sets of all sizes from July 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2006. (It also seeks to extend tuner requirements to sets smaller than 13-inches.)

CEA, which has roundly criticized the NAB for years for allegedly dragging its feet on a full DTV rollout, said the accelerated date would be "extremely difficult" for manufacturers to meet. If implemented, "such a requirement likely would cause a sudden jump in prices, thereby putting smaller sets out of reach of Americans with low or fixed incomes," according to the CEA.

TV receiver manufacturers typically require a minimum of 18-24 months to plan, develop and deploy new equipment. Even if manufacturers were able to meet a foreshortened production schedule, the CEA stated, "A date any earlier than March 2007 could result in a complete inability for many manufacturers to produce products in this category..."

In the opposite corner, NAB and MSTV filed comments supporting the FCC proposal--with NAB seeming to pour some more fuel on the fire by asking the FCC "to explore the feasibility of an even earlier date to capture crucial holiday and Super Bowl selling seasons." That would mean moving the effective date to November 2006, or earlier.

NAB concluded "advancing the date will expeditiously provide millions of Americans with access to DTV receivers, rather than analog-only sets, which will become obsolete. The DTV tuner mandate should also be extended to smaller (portable) sets and other devices with screens smaller than 13-inches as soon as practicable, to ensure these receivers will function during times of emergency after the transition." As usual, stay tuned.


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