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NAB: Set Size Matters

The National Association of Broadcasters this week asked the FCC to revise mandated DTV tuner rules to include receivers with screen sizes less than 13 inches.

The association also asked the commission to move the date by which all new analog-only sets must include DTV tuners up six months from July 1, 2007 to late 2006 to take advantage of the heavy holiday buying season and the Super Bowl. Currently all large screen (36-inch and up) and half of all mid-sized (25-36-inch) tuner-enabled sets on the market are required to include DTV tuners. In June, the FCC moved the date that all sets 25 inches and up must include DTV tuners to March 1, 2006. At the same time, the commission opened an inquiry to determine whether to move the DTV tuner mandate deadline for all sets 13 inches and up six months from July 1, 2007 to the end of 2006. It also asked for comments on whether sets with 13-inch or smaller should be included in the DTV tuner mandate as well. NAB said yes on both counts.

In its comments to the commission, NAB noted that the current deadline for all 13-inch plus sets to include DTV tuners is six months after the current analog shut-off date of Dec. 31, 2006, and said that the "late DTV tuner deadline has become even more problematic in light of Congress' announced intention to set a "hard date" to end the DTV transition by 2009," (which NAB voiced support for in its recent appearance before Congress).

"Assuming a 2009 'hard date' is enacted, consumers buying an analog-only small set in June 2007 would see their investment in that set disappear in just eighteen months," NAB told the commission. The association urged the FCC to move the DTV tuner mandate deadline to 2-3 months prior to Dec. 31, 2006 to prepare retailers for the Christmas and Super Bowl shopping seasons.

NAB also asked the FCC to include sets with screen sizes 13 inches and smaller in the DTV tuner rules as well, citing emergencies when such sets--many of which run on batteries--are most likely to be used.

"Because portable sets allow residents to receive critical updates from their local television stations when natural or manmade disasters disable household power service, it is important that these sets be able to receive and decode DTV signals," NAB said.

CEA says such arguments fly in the face of market realities, citing shortened and costly production cycles. It also said any decisions on such deadlines should wait until after a hard analog shut-off date is determined.

"It makes little sense to require products to be on the market before the general population of manufacturers can deliver them," CEA told the commission. The association also asked the FCC to hold off on imposing a mandate on receivers 13 inches and smaller until the industry determines the impact a mandate would have on the sets.

Without mentioning specifics, CEA said "at present, the changes in technology and products since 2002 would argue against, rather than in favor of, a new mandate."