FCC Rules That Television Manufacturers Must Go Digital (HDTV)

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FCC Rules That Television Manufacturers Must Go Digital (HDTV)

The U.S. FCC met Thursday, August 8th, and in a 3 to 1 decision ruled that manufacturers in new televisions they produce must include digital tuners. The FCC requirement is to be phased in over five years, starting with large sets (screens 35 inches and larger must be compliant by July 2004) and finally trickling down to televisions with 13 to 24 inches (must be compliant by July 2007). The Commission considered this issue and voted for mandatory compliance because the Commissioners felt the market was not moving rapidly enough of its own volition. According to the Michael Powell, Chairman of the FCC, “This [new order] is not a market-oriented policy. This an industrial policy.”

In 1997, the FCC ordered manufacturers to begin the transition from analog to digital television, and made available to each television broadcasting station an extra channel to offer both analog and digital broadcasting until digital broadcasting was in place. Most television manufacturers have opposed the conversion and several vowed to appeal the FCC decision in federal court. Only Zenith and Thomson Multimedia, maker of RCA-brand televisions, have not opposed the conversion, which is likely due to the fact that Zenith, a unit of LG Electronics, and RCA own patents that are part of the digital tuners (and could earn royalties for each receiver that is sold).