FCC addresses national switch to digital TV
WASHINGTON -- The lifelike images, crisp sound and other benefits of high definition TV is a dream delayed for most people even though the government is pressing industry to accelerate the transition to all-digital television.
Congress has decreed that broadcasters give up their existing analog channels to the government by 2006, but concerns remain that consumers won't have televisions that can receive digital signals.
The Federal Communications Commission is addressing the issue today with a vote on whether to require TV makers to add digital tuners to the sets they sell.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell proposed in April that TV makers include digital tuners by the end of 2004 in sets with screens larger than 36 inches and in smaller new sets by 2007.
TV makers oppose such a requirement, but expect the FCC to order them to add the tuners.
"We believe there's going to be a mandate for the inclusion of a digital broadcast television tuner in all television sets," said Jenny Miller, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association. The manufacturers may challenge the rules in court if necessary, she said.
Miller said the requirement would cost $250 for each set, amounting to an annual "TV tax" on the industry and consumers of about $7 billion. She said that with most consumers receiving television signals by cable or satellite, putting the tuner in all TVs would make people pay for a device most won't use.
Broadcasters, who need consumers to be able to receive their digital signals, support a requirement for the tuners. They call the manufacturers' cost estimates "outlandish and ridiculous."