NAB to Stevens: Cable must not be permitted to downconvert HD

The NAB has sent a letter objecting to a provision of a Senate bill that would permit cable television operators to downconvert broadcast HDTV channels for distribution as SD digital channels.

As proposed, the bill would allow cable systems to continue the practice till early 2014.

In a letter dated May 26 to Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, David Rehr, NAB president and CEO, singled out the downconversion provision of S.2686, the Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, as harming consumers and potentially allowing anticompetitive practices on the part of cable operators.

“Consumers who have invested hard-earned dollars in digital and high definition sets are entitled to the assurance that their televisions will perform at the level they expect and deserve,” the letter said.

Cable systems may have “anticompetitive reasons” to convert a broadcaster’s HDTV signal, he said in the letter. Not only would the provision deny consumers the ability to make the full use of their new HDTV sets, it would also prevent stations from making the fullest use of their DTV facilities, which “local broadcaster have spent billions on,” the letter said.