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Amendments Sought For DTV Rule

Arlington, Va. — The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC) have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move up its scheduled deadline for mandatory inclusion of digital television (DTV) tuners in all television sets measuring 25-inches to 36-inches.

In a joint petition to the FCC, the associations called for an acceleration of the DTV tuner timetable due to “unintended consequences of the 50 percent requirement,” in the existing phased-in guidelines.

They requested that the mandate be changed to list only a March 1, 2006 deadline for inclusion of ATSC digital tuners in 100 percent of televisions measuring 25-inches to 36-inches.

The existing phased-in timetable calls for 50 percent of TV receivers in the 25-inch to 36-inch screen sizes to include ATSC tuners by July 1, 2005, and 100 percent by July 1, 2006.

The petition said that due to the higher cost of televisions that include DTV tuners, retailers and consumers have put increased demand on the 50 percent of products that omit ATSC tuners — so-called DTV monitors — which is contrary to the intention of the DTV mandate.

“CEA and CERC are petitioning to exchange the 50 percent requirement for advancing the 100 percent requirement in this size category up from July 1, 2006 to March 1, 2006,” the associations said in a joint statement. “The modification will expedite the planning for and implementation of 100 percent incorporation of DTV tuners, in providing for a clear date for universal reliance on the DTV technology and components.

“The current 50 percent requirement is antithetical to the Commission’s goal of building marketplace demand for broadcast DTV receivers when applied to popular 25-inch to 36-inch screen sizes,” he continued. “Although initially conceived as a phase-in for the benefit of manufacturers and retailers, in reality it creates uncertainty in the marketplace for each group and slows the ramping up of volume production necessary to bring costs down.”

Under the current timetable, 50 percent of TV receivers (anything including an NTSC analog tuner) with screen sizes 36 inches and larger were to also include ATSC tuners by July 1, 2004, moving to 100 percent by July 1, 2005.

Monitor-only products that do not include NTSC analog tuners are exempt from the digital tuner mandate.

“The experience of the existing 50 percent requirement in the large-screen sector, in which the DTV tuner represents a much smaller percentage of product cost, has been that it has encouraged early ordering of the products whose supply is potentially limited by rule, whereas the DTV products are not potentially subject to rationing,” Shapiro said.

Marc Pearl CERC executive director added, “In practice, the 50 percent requirement has proven to be unduly disruptive. It creates an artificial scarcity of products without tuners, providing an incentive for retailers to assure their supplies of these non-tuner products. This is the opposite result from the one sought by the Commission, and by retailers, as a matter of public policy.”