FCC Orders Analog TV Warnings

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Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wednesday approved a ruling that will require consumer electronics retailers to post warning labels on any legacy analog-only TV sets if they continue to sell out of inventory by May 25th .

Although the Commission has already ordered that all new sets, VCRs, DVD recorders and other television receivers include digital ATSC tuners as of March 1, 2007 — making them “digital television” devices — a number of retailers continue to sell last year’s leftover analog-only models.

In recent testimony before the House Commerce and Energy Subcommittee, Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass) repeatedly asked Mike Vitelli, Best Buy's senior VP and representative of the Consumer Electronics Retail Coalition (CERC), if his stores were posting warnings that old analog sets would cease to receive signals after the February 2009 analog TV cutoff date. Vitelli said at that time Circuit City was not.

The FCC’s order now requires all brick-and-mortar stores, direct-mail merchants and online retailers that continue to sell analog TVs to post consumer alerts on or near those sets.

The warning, which begins, “This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after Feb. 17, 2009,” must also clearly inform buyers that the sets won’t receive broadcasts after February 2009 if not connected to a cable, satellite or DTV converter.

Prior to the ruling, the CERC had urged the FCC to include in the ruling a reasonable deadline for compliance.

In a statement responding to the FCC actions, CERC Executive Director Marc Pearl said “the text and the nature of the labeling obligation, as released by the FCC yesterday, is very close, but not identical to, the proposed legislative text and obligation with which CERC and its members were familiar, and which some retailers had begun to implement on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, we are confident that CERC members will be in compliance as of the effective date.”

“We also invite — as we do on any FCC or NTIA DTV Transition issue — non-CERC retailer members to forward any questions as to retailer compliance obligations, or other aspects of the transition, to us via the CERC Web site, www.ceretailers.org.”

Pearl noted that the CERC had supported past labeling provisions in DTV legislation, and worked with the FCC staff “on a standard text, and on an appropriate period for compliance.”

Following the ruling, FCC commissioner Michael Copps released as statement saying: “Labeling of analog-only television sets is a good idea. It would have been an even better idea had we adopted it fourteen months ago when Congress passed the February 2009 deadline.”

He said consumers bought 11 million analog television sets in 2006 alone and wondered if those consumers would have chosen a digital set if they had known about the analog cutoff date.


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