FCC Pushed on DTV Mandate
On November 22, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC) filed a joint petition with the FCC requesting an acceleration of the DTV tuner timetable to March 1, 2006 deadline for inclusion of ATSC digital tuners in 100% of televisions measuring 25" to 36". The request was made due to “unintended consequences of the 50% requirement,” in the existing phased-in guidelines, according to an announcement from the CEA.
The present timetable calls for 50% of TV receivers in that screen size range to include ATSC tuners by July 1, 2005, and 100% by July 1, 2006. That requirement favored sales of "DTV monitors" (ED/HD displays with legacy tuners) because of the higher manufacturing costs of including DTV tuners in new sets.
Requiring all new sets to have the tuners would create a level playing field for the next generation of DTV sets, the petitioners believe. Changing the timetable will “expedite the planning for and implementation of 100% incorporation of DTV tuners, in providing for a clear date for universal reliance on the DTV technology and components," according to a statement issued by both trade groups.
The move is a bit of a turnaround for manufacturers, who originally balked at the idea of a DTV tuner requirement, arguing that most people received digital TV signals via outboard devices such as satellite receivers or cable boxes. So-called "plug'n'play" agreements have eliminated those concerns. Video monitors will continue to be exempt from tuner requirements.
The accelerating transition to DTV will eventually force the approximately 1700 television broadcasters in the US to relinquish their licenses for use of the analog spectrum, as laid out in the FCC's grand plan for adopting a DTV system in the 21st century. Oneprovision in that plan—that over-the-air digital signals reach 85% of the market—has already been reached, a goal that was not expected until 2006. Not all households within the DTV footprint have DTV receivers, of course. The CEA and CERC hope to correct that deficit with the change in tuner requirements. 13 million DTV have been sold to date, according to the CEA.