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Chris Llana, Editor


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DTV Tuners - FCC Caves In to Industry

November 3, 2005

The FCC met today in open session and announced the final rule in their proceeding to establish a mandate for ATSC tuners in small television sets. Their proposed rule had asked for comment on a date "no later than December 31, 2006." In its comments, the consumer electronics industry objected, saying that in general the industry would not be able to produce small digital TVs that quickly.

They suggested the alternative compliance date of March 1, 2007 (after the holiday TV buying season) and began a lobbying campaign both with the FCC and Congress. The House of Representatives, which had earlier sought to impose a July 1, 2006 date, ended up taking the politically expedient action of adopting the March 1, 2007 industry plan. The FCC followed suit.

On the other hand, the House DTV bill would require consumer warning labels on analog-only TV sets by mid-2006, which should kill demand for those sets. And the FCC rejected industry calls to exempt TV sets 13" and smaller from the digital tuner mandate.

Until I get a look at the FCC ruling in full, here is what their press release says:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:

November 3, 2005 Bruce Romano -- (202) 418-2470

FCC MODIFIES DIGITAL TUNER REQUIREMENTS TO ADVANCE DTV TRANSITION

Washington, D.C. -- The FCC today amended its rules to move the date on which all TV receivers must include the capability to receive digital television signals forward four months to March 1, 2007 and to apply the tuner requirement to all television receivers, regardless of their size. This action is intended to further the Commission's efforts to ensure that consumers are able to receive off-the-air digital broadcast television services as soon as possible.

The digital television reception requirement, which is also often termed the DTV tuner requirement, is being implemented on a schedule that applies it first to large screen receivers and then to progressively smaller screen sets and other devices that receive TV signals, such as VCRs and digital video recorders. This phase-in plan is intended to allow manufacturers to realize increasing economies of scale with production volume, so that digital tuner costs will be lower when the tuners are required in smaller sets. On July 1, 2004, the tuner requirement was applied to 50% of large sets (screen sizes 36" and larger), and last July (July 1, 2005), the tuner requirement was applied to all large sets and to 50% of mid-size sets (25"- 36"). Beginning March 1, 2006, DTV tuners will be required in all mid-size sets as well. With the change adopted in this Second Report and Order, the final step in the phase-in plan will now require that all new TV sets in all size ranges and other TV receivers include a DTV tuner beginning March 1, 2007. (Previously, the deadline for small sets (13"- 24") and for other TV receivers was July 1, 2007).

The Commission also extended the DTV tuner requirement to new TV receivers screen sizes less than 13" on the same schedule as other TV receivers. (Previously, the tuner requirement did not apply to very small sets (smaller than 13"). In this regard, the Commission noted the particular value of these portable, typically battery-powered products for enabling the reception of news and public safety information in times of emergency.

Action by the Commission November 3, 2005 by Second Report and Order (FCC 05-190). Chairman Martin, Commissioners Abernathy, Copps, and Adelstein.

Office of Engineering and Technology contact: Mr. Alan Stillwell, (202) 418-2925, e-mail alan.stillwell@fcc.gov.

ET Docket No. 05-24.