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FCC Floats New DTV-Tuner Deadline

The Federal Communications Commission Monday proposed a deadline change to its digital-TV-tuner mandate in response to industry concerns that existing rules are disrupting the market.

Nearly three years ago, the FCC required TV-set manufacturers to include digital-TV tuners in all but the smallest units by July 2007. In order to allow the market to adjust, the agency phased in the mandate according to the size of the TV.

Under current rules, one-half of all digital-TV units with screens 25 inches-36 inches must include over-the-air tuners by July 1, 2005, and all sets of that size must comply by July 1, 2006.

Last November, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition asked the FCC to drop the July 1, 2005, deadline in favor of a 100% requirement by March 1, 2006.

On Monday, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking in which it said that in entertaining the CEA-CERC request, it is “our intent that any revisions we make to the tuner requirement should not serve to delay the completion of the DTV transition.”

The agency also said it had no intention of moving the July 2007 deadline for digital-TV tuners to be in all sets larger than 13 inches.

CEA spokeswoman Jenny Miller said dropping the 50% requirement by July 2005 was necessary to eliminate market disruption. Because digital-TV sets without tuners are less expensive than tuner-equipped sets, retailers tend to put in orders just for digital-TV sets without tuners, she added.

By requiring all sets within a size category to have digital-TV turners installed by the same date, the FCC would eliminate the ability of retailers to opt for sets without DTV tuners, Miller said.

The CEA went to federal court to eliminate the tuner mandate, but the court upheld the FCC.