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CEA’s Shapiro admonishes broadcasters on refusal to embrace DTV; NAB returns fire

The broadcast industry should stop pushing for regulations on other industries, remove its shackles and market the value of its digital television service to consumers, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) told broadcasters at the NAB last week.

Gary Shapiro, the CEA president and CEO, said broadcasters face significant challenges in the digital age — challenges they have refused to tackle and opportunities they have refused to embrace. He said these challenges are not insurmountable and that those who play these changes to their advantage will succeed in the digital age.

Shapiro’s comments came as the NAB issued an attack on the CEA’s attempt to modify the DTV tuner rollout schedule and accelerate the DTV transition. The CEA wants the FCC to advance the deadline for manufacturers to include digital tuners in all televisions with screens sized 25- to 36in from July 1, 2006, to March 1, 2006. In exchange, the association is urging the commission to eliminate the July 1 deadline that requires 50 percent of sets offered for sale in this size range include a digital tuner.

The NAB and the Association for Maximum Service Television have filed comments urging the commission to reject the CEA’s proposal. Instead of adopting the CEA’s plan, the FCC should consider moving up its requirement that 100 percent of TV sets shipped after July 1, 2006, have DTV tuners, the petition said.

The NAB called on TV set makers to immediately begin warning consumers of the possible obsolescence of analog TV sets, and to fully embrace the FCC’s DTV tuner timetable.

NAB President Eddie Fritts said CEA member companies continue to sell millions of analog TV sets every year, while refusing to tell consumers that these sets will soon be obsolete or need converters to work in the digital era.

Shapiro said the NAB was distorting the facts and is pushing for regulations on other industries instead of taking their responsibility to move the DTV transition forward seriously.

Shapiro offered four steps for broadcasters to win back share and help save their industry:

  • Promote free over-the-air broadcasting.
  • Shift to HDTV quickly and promote DTV on analog channels.
  • Support a hard cut-off date for analog broadcasts.
  • Defend the First Amendment.

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