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CEA Repeats Voluntary DTV Standards Mantra

The consumer electronics' main trade association told the FCC this week that DTV receiver standards should remain voluntary and asserted that broadcasters are not doing all they can to help consumers receive over-the-air DTV signals.

In reply comments to the commission this week, the Consumer Electronics Association re-asserted its longstanding opposition to mandatory DTV receiver standards and urged the commission to let the market decide.

"The marketplace provides the strongest incentive for continued technical improvements to receivers," said Michael Petricone, CEA's VP of Technology. "Government mandates seldom create business incentives or result in product innovations. When it comes to DTV receiver standards, manufacturers already are competing in a highly competitive market that requires products to exceed consumer expectations. To override the consumer's voice in the marketplace would be misguided."

The association also took broadcasters to task over the increasing use of low-power signals to transmit DTV.

"There are weaker than authorized signals from 69 percent of the DTV stations currently on the air according to the FCC's most recent data," CEA noted in its comments. "Full power operation of DTV stations is the quickest and surest way to bring digital signals to a maximum amount of viewers in a station area,"

A year ago, the commission said it would study the issue of mandatory standards after it mandated DTV tuners in analog TV sets starting in 2004. CEA has filed suit in court to overturn the mandate; opening arguments begin this month in Washington. Two major manufacturers, Zenith and Thomson declined to be included in the suit.

Broadcasters initially supported mandatory DTV receiver standards; however the two largest broadcast groups -- NAB and MSTV -- are working with the CEA and the ATSC to draw up voluntary standards, which could be ready by next spring, according to Mark Richer, head of the ATSC, which promotes and manages the development of the U.S. DTV standard.