Washington -- Over the boisterous objections of the consumer electronics
industry's chief lobbying organizations, the Federal Communications Commission
voted Thursday to require the installation of off-air digital tuners in nearly
all new TV sets by 2007.
Under the FCC's new rule, all TV sets 13 inches and larger are required to
come equipped with off-air digital tuners by July 2007.
The five-year phase-in begins in July 2004 when 50 percent of all sets 36
inches and larger must have off-air digital tuners.
The Consumer Electronics Association argued that the FCC action's would not
only violate federal law but also would add about $250 to the cost of a TV set
in the first year and would load a $5 billion 'FCC TV Tax' on the 28 million TV
sets sold each year in the U.S.
The National Association of Broadcasters claimed, among other things, that
the price of DTV tuners would drop rapidly with each manufacturing cycle. NAB
was key supporter of the DTV tuner mandate.
The tuner debate once again split the GOP majority at the FCC.
In the 3-1 vote, Democrat Michael Copps joined Republican chairman Michael
Powell and Republican FCC member Kathleen Abernathy in support of the
Republican Kevin Martin objected to the tuner mandate,
saying the costs outweighed the benefits owing to the fact that the overwhelming
majority of TV viewers rely on cable and satellite for TV reception and would
not need an off-air tuner in their DTV sets.