Congressman bids to outlaw FCC’s TV tuner “tax”

Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. has made the elimination of wasteful government spending a centerpiece of his political career. Apparently Wisconsin’s voters approve. Sensenbrenner is now completing his 10th year as a member of the House of Representatives.

Sensenbrenner’s latest target is the FCC’s DTV Tuner mandate, a ruling last August that orders digital tuners to be included in all future television sets.

“How,” he asks, “would you like to fork out $250 for something you don’t need and are not ever likely to use, but have to pay for anyway?”

In a pre-election newsletter to his district’s voters, Sensenbrenner said the FCC’s mandate is comparable to requiring viewers to purchase an expensive antenna when they already have cable.

“When you consider the $250 added cost to future TVs, along with the projection that less than 13 percent of consumers will use this device, the FCC’s mandate is unacceptable,” he said. “For Wisconsin, this would mean that with an estimated 560,000 TV sets sold per year, at $250 a tuner, the FCC’s mandate could cost Wisconsinites approximately $140 million per year!”

On Oct. 16, Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 5685, the TV Consumer Choice Act. “My legislation is simple,” he said, “it nullifies the FCC’s decision, thus ensuring that individual consumers, not the federal government, decide which TV options are best for them.”

Sensenbrenner explained that digital TV tuners are only used to receive over-the-air signals. “For those households which choose alternate services, such as cable or satellite, the device is completely worthless,” he said, calling the FCC action “yet another federal mandate on the lives of consumers.”

The congressman pointed out that he is not opposed to digital television. “The switch to digital broadcasting is being made because the advanced technology will allow broadcasters to air a better product, which will translate to a better picture and more lifelike sound to people watching TV at home. I support that.”

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