House DTV Bill Tackles Reception, Plug-and-Play

A Democrat and Republican have teamed up to introduce a DTV bill that would force the FCC to speed up a major deliberation and force broadcasters to amp up their DTV transmissions to full power.

Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) introduced the Consumer Access to Digital Television Enhancement Act of 2003. It would:

* Make the FCC, within 30 days of enactment, adopt the proposed plug-and-play standards for cable-TV compatibility, as CEA and the cable industry has been asking. Satellite operators and content providers have called for more input into the standards, which would involve the difficult issue of copyright protection. FCC Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree has said a decision may be reached this fall;
* Mandate that all plug-and-play sets made in accordance with the new specifications also include over-the-air ATSC digital receivers (something most TV manufacturers have indicated they would do);
* Force the FCC, within 90 days of enactment, to set standards for minimum power levels for DTV broadcasts. At the very least, according to the bill, broadcasters would have to transmit DTV that matches their Grade A service contours by July 1, 2004.

CEA said it supports the bill. An NAB spokesman was not immediately available for comment.