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FCC Cites Two For DTV Tuner Violations

Washington — The Federal Communications Commission Tuesday issued “apparent liability for forfeiture” notices to flat-panel TV manufacturers Regent USA (Maxent) and Syntax-Brillian (Olevia) for allegedly failing to comply with its ATSC tuner mandate.

The commission found Regent U.S.A. and Syntax-Brillian “apparently liable” in the amount of $63,650 and $2,899,575, respectively for “willful and repeated violations” of the mandate by importing and transporting across state lines television receivers that do not comply with its rules.

The FCC’s DTV reception rules require that all new television broadcast receivers that are imported into the United States or shipped in interstate commerce be capable of receiving the signals of DTV broadcast stations over-the-air.

The FCC said the rules were “intended to facilitate the transition to digital television by promoting the availability of DTV reception equipment and to protect consumers by ensuring that their television receivers will provide off the-air television reception of digital signals just as they have provided off-the-air television reception of analog signals”

DTV reception capability involves more circuitry than just a tuner, the FCC said. To provide this capability requires a tuner to receive the digital signal, an MPEG decoder/formatter, and associated processing capability and memory. The DTV tuner requirement also applies to other devices such as television interface devices that do not include a viewing screen, such as VCRs and DVD recorders.

To lessen the impact on manufacturers the rules were implemented in a phased in approach starting with the largest screen sizes on July 1, 2004. The full order applying to all television receivers became effective March 1, 2007.

Under the rules, the party responsible for equipment such as television receivers that are subject to “verification” equipment authorization procedure is the manufacturer or, in the case of imported equipment, the importer. If subsequent to manufacture and importation, the equipment is modified by any party not working under the authority of the responsible party, the party performing the modification becomes the new responsible party.

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau said it received a complaint in August 2006 that Regent USA was “marketing and thus apparently shipping interstate, television receivers with screen sizes larger than 25 inches that did not include a DTV tuner.”

The FCC said that in its response to a letter of inquiry Regent “admits that it imported and shipped interstate four models of large screen television receivers that do not include DTV tuners after July 1, 2005. Regent imported and shipped interstate the following four models of large screen television receivers: Model LME-37X8, described as a 37-inch HD-ready LCD screen television; Model PME-42X10, described as a 42-inch HDTV-ready plasma screen television; Model LME-42X8, described as a 42-inch HD-ready LCD screen television; and Model PME-50X10, described as a 50-inch HDTV-ready plasma screen television.

“Regent admits that on five dates between March 24, 2006, and July 11, 2006, it imported a total of 891 non-DTV-compliant large screen televisions. Regent also admits that it made 368 interstate shipments comprising a total of 1,288 non-DTV-compliant large screen televisions between Feb. 6, 2006, and Oct. 3, 2006.”

The FCC said Regent imported or shipped 1,182 non-compliant DTV tuners within the statute of limitations, resulting in a proposed forfeiture of $63,650 using it calculation methodology.

In arriving at the forfeiture sum for Syntax-Brillian, the FCC said it used its calculation methodology on 22,069 TVs imported or shipped within the statute of limitations. “We believe that the proposed forfeiture reflects the gravity of Syntax-Brillian’s apparent violations, the company’s ability to pay, and the need to deter Syntax-Brillian and other companies from future violations of the act and the rules,” the commission said.

Representatives for Regent USA and Syntax-Brillian did not respond to requests for comment as this was posted.