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Digital delay blamed on FCC standards

NAB wants cablers to carry digital signals

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters blamed the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday for the slow rollout of digital television, which they say has been hampered by the agency’s failure to write tougher regulatory standards for cablers and TV makers.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters told the FCC that it should require cablers to carry broadcasters’ digital signals and that set makers should be held to a federal standard.

The NAB and other broadcasting orgs, including the Assn. for Local TV Stations (ALTV), are frustrated because the digital transition is now 3 years old, the expensive sets still have trouble receiving an over-the-air digital picture from local stations, and intra-industry squabbles make hooking up digital televisions to cable impossible.

On the other hand, the Consumer Electronics Assn. told the FCC it should stay away from imposing a standard on set makers. The trade group, which reps every major TV manufacturer, placed the blame on broadcasters for failing to produce compelling high-definition programming to drive consumer demand for digital televisions.

ALTV encouraged the FCC to explore the possibilities presented by an alternative digital set standard called COFDM, which has been adopted in Europe and other countries. ALTV wrote that the current standard has not been a success. “Indeed, only 17% of all DTV sets sold to date are capable of receiving over-the-air digital signals at all.”

The FCC solicited comments as part of its regular review of the digital TV transition, which is supposed to be completed by Jan. 1, 2007, but is expected to take much longer.

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