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FCC Issues DTV Retailer Advisory

Washington — As part of its DTV Transition outreach efforts, the Federal Communications Commission and Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition have issued an educational and training advisory to retailers.

The Commission reminded dealers that as of May 25, 2007, “all retailers must clearly label any broadcast television equipment they are selling that has only an analog tuner. FCC rules require that labels or signage clearly indicate if any television receiver (including any product with an analog but not a digital broadcast tuner) is “analog-only.”

Consumers must be notified that such products will not be able to receive over-the-air television signals after Feb. 17, 2009, when the transition to digital television (DTV) broadcasting is completed analog broadcasts are to end in favor of DTV transmissions.

The FCC said “digital technology offers better TV reception and a wider array of services”

Because digital tuners will be necessary to receive over-the-air digital television signals after Feb. 17, 2009, consumers should be able to ascertain whether a TV or other television equipment that will be used to tune broadcast TV includes a digital tuner.

They should be aware that “over-the-air signals” are those that are received via rabbit ears or rooftop antennas – not through a cable or satellite provider.

Consumers who want to continue to receive such signals from their local broadcast television stations after Feb. 17, 2009 can either purchase a TV set equipped with a digital tuner or (for existing analog-only TVs) can purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that will convert those over-the-air digital signals into analog so that they can be displayed on a device with only an analog tuner.

Starting in 2008, a government program will make available $40 subsidy coupons, two per household, to help defray the cost of converter boxes to consumers — see NTIA: Digital TV Transition and Public Safety.

Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services.

As of March 1, 2007, FCC rules prohibit manufacturers and other responsible parties (as defined in the FCC rules) from manufacturing, importing or distributing devices with broadcast television equipment that have only an analog tuner and do not have a digital tuner.

However, retailers may continue to sell analog-only television equipment from existing inventory, the FCC said.

“Potential purchasers may not be aware that television equipment with only an analog tuner will not be able to receive over-the-air-television signals after Feb. 17, 2009. Accordingly, FCC rules require sellers to display the following text if they are selling television equipment with only an analog broadcast tuner,” the advisory states.

The FCC said consumer alert signage should read as follows:

“This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation’s transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at (888) 225-5322 (TTY: (888) 835-5322) or visit the Commission’s digital television Web site.”

“While analog-only receivers may serve the needs of customers who subscribe to a wired or satellite service or who play games or view DVD or VCR content, some customers may be unaware that purchasing a device with an analog-only television receiver may require additional attention in the future,” states the advisory. “Public education about the DTV transition will be a major and beneficial national undertaking, and a challenge for government and industry. The FCC and CERC want to be sure that the retail community has the information necessary to enable their customers to make fully-informed purchasing decisions.”

For more information about the DTV transition, the phase-out of analog-only products, and the future availability of digital-to-analog converter boxes, please visit TELEVISION (DTV) Tomorrow’s TV Today! or Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition Homepage or call CERC at (202) 263-2585.

Dealers may also contact the FCC’s ConsumerCenter by e-mailing [email protected]; calling (888) CALL-FCC (225-5322) voice; (888) TELL-FCC (835-5322) TTY; or fax (866) 418-0232.