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DTV Switch Gets Plug-and-Play Boost

Broadcast, cable and consumer-electronics representatives Thursday had
unanimous praise for the Federal Communications Commission’s plug-and-play
decision, which paves the way for cable- and broadcast-compatible digital TV’s
that do not require set-top boxes.

But at a Media Institute panel in Washington, D.C., on the remaining hurdles to the
transition, the same representatives continued the chicken-vs.-egg fight over
whether it was lack of programming or carriage or sets or signals that was
holding up the transition.

On the signal-power issue, the FCC’s Rick Chessen said the commission has
teed up its inquiry into when to set a hard date for requiring digital-TV stations to
go to full power.

Chessen saw the glass as already almost half-full, though, pointing out that
virtually all of the stations in the top 30 markets (103) are at full strength,
plus another 450 in smaller markets, making a total of 553, compared with 677 at
lower power.

The National Association of Broadcasters' Valerie Schulte said that even some of those lower powers are reaching
the majority of their coverage areas.

Asked whether the present 2006 date would be the hard one, Chessen said the
FCC didn’t want to "just pull the plug," and how quickly the deadline was
set depended on the degree to which broadcasters were making a good-faith effort
to meet it.