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FCC: Retailers Must Warn Consumers About Digital Conversion Deadline

9 May, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With less than two years before all over-the-air television signals in the United States convert from analog to digital, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated retailers warn consumers about the change.

The FCC estimates that 15% of U.S. households do not subscribe to multichannel cable or satellite TV services. In addition, the agency says 50% of cable subscribers receive analog — not digital — cable.

To help implement the order, the FCC ordered retailers by May 25 to affix labels on all analog televisions offered for sale warning consumers the devices would be unable to receive over-the-air signals after Feb. 17, 2009.

In order to avoid forcing consumers to buy new TVs, several consumer electronics manufacturers reportedly plan to offer converter boxes.

Similar devices are planned for analog consumers with cable or satellite TV subscriptions.

The 1992 Cable Act mandates cable operators must ensure that all local broadcast stations carried are “viewable” by all cable subscribers.

The FCC stated it will not allow cable operators to coerce consumers into renting set-top boxes to complete the conversion.

“Cable operators cannot simply cut off these broadcast signals to any of their customers after the transition to cable,” FCC chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement.

Separately, the FCC agreed to extend the deadline to July 8, 2008 for which select cable operators must offer fully integrated set-top boxes.

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