Appeals court rebuffs CBA request to halt DTV converter box distribution

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week dismissed a petition filed by the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) in March asking the court to force the FCC to stop the distribution and marketing of DTV converter boxes without analog reception capability.

While the court concluded that extraordinary judicial intervention was not warranted, the association’s petition for a declaratory ruling from the FCC on the legality of converter boxes without analog tuners remains pending.

The association contends that DTV converter boxes without analog tuners will cut its members off from their viewers. With no mandate for must-carry of LPTV stations on cable and with digital television deployment at the earliest of stages among low-power broadcasters, the inability of government coupon-backed converter boxes to receive analog will make it extremely difficult for viewers to watch LPTV stations after the transition.

The association had asked the court to force the FCC to enforce the All Channel Receiver Act, which it contends makes the sale of converter boxes without the ability to tune all broadcast TV channels, including the analog transmissions of LPTV stations, illegal. “The court’s lack of willingness to support our need for immediate clarification and enforcement of the All Channel Receiver Act is yet another slap in the face to innumerable small businesses which make up the bulk of the low-power television industry,” said CBA VP of technology Greg Herman.