Broadcasters Focused On Digital Cable Ready - Multichannel

Broadcasters Focused On Digital Cable Ready

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Las Vegas -- Broadcasters are profoundly suspicious that the digital TV
interoperability agreement between the cable and consumer electronics industry
could be a bad deal for consumers.

What broadcasters fear is that under the December agreement between major
cable companies and the CE firms, DTV sets labeled 'cable ready' will not
include a tuner to receive either analog or digital programming with an off-air
antenna.

'One could have a cable-viewing device which is not a TV set,' said Lynn
Claudy, chief engineer of the National Association of Broadcasters, at a panel
discussion here Monday at NAB's convention.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV set makers to
include off-air DTV tuners under a phase-in plan that begins with the largest
units and works down to 13-inch screens in 2007.

But Patrick J. Mullen, president of Tribune Broadcasting, said the FCC's
tuner mandate appeared to require DTV tuners only in sets that also have off-air
analog tuners.

That, he said, leaves the door open for DTV sets that are considered
'cable-ready' but have no off-air tuning capabilities.

'That's clearly a loophole that we want to see closed,' Claudy added.

The cable and CE companies have asked the FCC to codify the interoperability
agreement as federal regulations.

Rick Chessen, who heads the FCC's DTV task force, said it was 'not clear'
whether the tuner issue highlighted by NAB was 'an oversight' or something
'intentional' in the cable-CE agreement.

One broadcast industry leader indicated the agreement intentionally calls for
cable-ready sets with no off-air digital tuners  because of the Consumer
Electronics Association's strong opposition to the FCC mandate. CEA is suing the
FCC over the action.

Valerie Schulte, an NAB attorney, suggested that DTV sets built under the
cable-CE agreement shouldn't be marked 'cable ready' but 'not ready for
broadcast.'

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