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CEA Requests to Modify DTV Tuner Requirements

The FCC is accepting comments on a request from consumer electronics makers to delay the July 1, 2005 deadline to include DTV tuners in 50 percent of all 25- and 36-inch TV sets. Such a rule will slow down the DTV transition, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Consumer Retailers Association (CERA) who expressed concern that retailers who will over-order analog-only TV sets with these screen sizes.

CEA and CERA petitioned the commission last November, asking the FCC to drop the 50 percent deadline slated for July 1 and advance the deadline for 100 percent of these size sets to include DTV tuners by four months to March 1, 2006 from July 1, 2006.

With that deadline rapidly approaching, the FCC decided to proceed directly to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) rather than assign the petition a file number, announce its submission in a Public Notice and initiate a comment and reply cycle for responses. "CEA-CERC submit that for retailers faced with the prospect of a much higher price for an entry-level product that will be sold alongside a product of the same size and brand that many or most consumers may view as identically satisfying their needs, the 50 percent rule presents an economic imperative that is at odds with the Commission's goals for completing the DTV transition. They state that a retailer must assume that, whether or not a manufacturer can find a market for its DTV-tuner equipped sets, it will adhere to the 50 percent rule, " according to the the NPRM.

They state that, in this situation, the retailer must assume that the supply of lower-priced non-DTV-tuner equipped sets will be rationed, with the result that their acquisition process will be driven up. CEA-CERC submit that the 50 percent rule therefore forces retailers to take early steps to secure supplies of the non-DTV-tuner equipped sets, which are being made artificially scarce. They state that no matter how committed a retailer is to the DTV transition, the 50 percent rule provides an imperative to over-order the potentially scarce non-DTV tuner products and to under-order the more expensive products whose prices may be driven down later as a manufacturer seeks to achieve a 50/50 balance."

Both the CEA and CERC report that this has been the reaction to the current 50 percent requirement for DTV tuners in sets with screen sizes larger than 36 inches.

The NPRM reported "partial production elements of this plan may be impeding rather than promoting the introduction of TV receivers that include DTV tuners." In its consideration of the plan, the FCC reported that a revised implementation schedule should foster a quicker introduction of DTV reception capability while maintaining the July 1, 2007 date for full implementation.

In addition to comments on the CEA-CERC proposal, the FCC invited comments on alternative approaches for addressing the problems with the 50 percent DTV tuner requirement, but cautioned that the July 1 date will not be extended.

For more information and details on how to file comments, refer to the Public Notice FCC 05-17.