FCC mandates DTV tuners

TV makers must begin putting digital receivers in large screen TVs two
summers from now and in nearly all sets by summer 2007, according to an order
approved the FCC Thursday.

The mandate was expected but lobbying last week by a couple of set makers
convinced the FCC to lengthen the phase-in schedule from one floated four months
ago by agency Chairman Michael Powell that would have ended in 2006.

Under the requirement approved 3-1 by the commission, 50% of sets 36 inches
and larger must include DTV receivers by July 1, 2004 and 100% one year

All sets 13 inches and larger must include DTV tuners by July 1, 2007.

The digital tuner mandate is adamantly opposed by the Consumer Electronics
Association and many of its members but Powell said the requirement is necessary
to fulfill the government's goal of switching to digital TV and reclaiming
analog spectrum.

'Consumers will expect their television sets to go on working in the digital
world just as they do today,' he said.

Broadcasters say the consumers must be able to get over-the-air signals if
stations are to have incentive to carry new digital programming that takes
advantage of the technology's rich colors sharper pictures and multiple signal

Thomson and Zenith, however, said they could live with a tuner mandate and
Thomson asked for the schedule to be lengthened and kick in dates moved from
January to July to mesh with new model roll out dates.

Commission Kevin Martin opposed the mandate, arguing that it would have been
better to combine it with rules ensuring digital sets have 'plug and play'
capability that works with cable systems without the need for a separate
converter box.

CEA and other member companies have vowed to take the FCC to court to fight
the mandate.

The FCC Thursday also launched a rulemaking to review whether its has
authority to impose copy protection standards for broadcast television and
whether such a mandate would be a good idea.