CEA, NAB Oppose California Mandate on DTV Adapters

A California rule setting energy standards for DTV conversion products has come under fire from industry associations fearing that the mandates will unduly harm the federal government's plan to provide low-cost A/D adapters to the public.

At issue is a regulation from the California Energy Commission that sets energy standards for DTV conversion products. The Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters--which have frequently been on opposite sides during the DTV transition--spoke out against the rules this week as the CEC solicits public statements about the regulations.

"We strongly urge the CEC to withdraw the energy regulation for digital television adapters," said CEA President Gary Shapiro and David Rehr, president of NAB. "These converters are necessary for existing analog televisions to receive the new digital and high-definition television signals by antenna. This regulation would likely raise the cost and limit the availability of these products, potentially leaving millions of Californians on the wrong side of the digital divide."

The organizations said the CEC acted prematurely by setting energy standards before a product is even on the market and that the regulations could jeopardize Californians' eligibility for receiving subsidized converter boxes. CEA and NAB said the federal government is on the verge of announcing a $1 billion program to help American consumers purchase these converters so they can continue to receive television over-the-air once the nation shifts to DTV--including the "millions of Californians" who rely on over-the-air TV reception. The associations said that consumer electronics manufacturers "are committed to energy conservation" and that new technologies combining multiple operations in one box will help reduce energy consumption.

CEA and NAB aren't alone in their concerns. David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, which is collaborating with the NAB on a low-cost A/D converter design, also opposes the mandate.

The regulations, Donovan said, may result "in establishing a different, perhaps more expensive, converter box just for California residents. As a result, California viewers may not receive the full benefits of the federal [subsidy] program. In turn, this may have the unintended consequence of delaying the availability of these converter boxes to the citizens of California. Consumer acceptance is the key to the digital transition, and any delay or impediment to the roll out of digital to analog converter boxes could slow down the digital transition."

Anyways, the CEA and NAB said, the DTV transition will save energy as broadcasters shut down analog transmissions in February 2009. The associations said such delays that result from the CEC's regulations could cost Californians more than $1.6 million or almost $20 million per year in energy savings. In addition the organizations said the the CEC's grounds for setting the energy saving mandates is based on false premises, citing the CEC's conclusion that 46,000 digital television converters are in use throughout California, despite the fact that "set-top DTV converters are not available on the market in the U.S."

The commission is expected to respond this week to public comments requesting it rescind the regulation.