|The FCC rule is part of a federal government move to make digital technology -- rather than the old analog technology -- the core of the U.S. broadcasting system.
A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of an FCC mandate that all but the very smallest of TV sets sold in the U.S. by 2007 must be equipped for receiving digital -- along with the traditional analog -- TV signals.
The court rejected the contention of the Consumer Electronics Association that the FCC acted illegally in the matter. The court said the FCC's mandate was needed because the industry was not moving quickly enough to make the new tuners available. The association said it is still reviewing the decision and has made no final decision on whether to appeal, but that it intends to consult with its members. It said it would comply with any final ruling.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement praising the decision.
"The court's decision is a milestone toward completing the DTV transition. Consumers buying TV sets will know that the receivers they buy will continue to receive all broadcast signals, even as broadcasting changes to digital," the group said in a statement.
Move from analog standard
The case comes as an outgrowth of the FCC's earlier action requiring TV stations to start broadcasting digital signals and begin moving away from the current analog signal standard. While the digital signals are of higher quality, the switch would require TV media companies to purchase new broadcast transmitters and consumers to buy new TVs.
The plan also allows the government to sell the broadcast spectrum space, and some federal deficit projections have anticipated revenues from these sales. The FCC originally expected broadcasters to make switch by 2006, but the switch has been going far more slowly than originally expected because TV makers have been reluctant to charge consumers extra to make sets incorporating the new tuners.
The FCC had expected market forces to build desire for the digital TV technology, but in 2002 it gave up and issued an order requiring digital tuners in all sets. The tuners are required starting in 2004 for bigger sets. Ultimately, all sets over 13 inches are required to contain the turners by July 1, 2007.