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Broadcasters Enter Digital Tuner Case

The cable and consumer electronics industries may be on their way to cable-compatible digital TVs, but CEA is still fighting the FCC's mandate to make all TVs compatible with over-the-air digital signals.

A federal court will hear oral arguments Sept. 16 in CEA's lawsuit against the FCC over the August 2002 order for phased-in inclusion of ATSC receivers.

May 27, NAB and the Association for Maximum Service TV (MSTV) weighed in with the D.C. Court of Appeals, supporting the FCC's argument that the All Channel Receivers Act of 1962 gives it authority for the order.

Without the order, the broadcasters argue, manufacturers will be hesitant to include ATSC tuners as long as consumers are satisfied with analog-only sets-which NAB and MSTV attribute "in significant part [to] confusion over the DTV transition."

And, say the broadcasters, digital tuners would become more affordable from economies of scale if only manufacturers would take steps for the good of everyone.

"Manufacturers ... are deterred from seeking to achieve the economies of scale necessary to reduce the cost of including digital tuners in televisions because they have no assurance that competing manufacturers will take the same step, leaving them at a competitive disadvantage if they incur the short-run costs necessary to produce televisions with digital tuners," the broadcasters told the court. "Given the lack of individual and market incentives to work toward this collective good, protecting the efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum has historically been the province of the federal government."

CEA has argued that the All Channel Receivers Act gives the FCC narrower rights and that the commission failed to consider the expense of the tuners.