LPTV Industry Files Suit To Stop Distribution of Illegal DTV Converter Boxes Marietta, GA. (March 26, 2008) – The Community Broadcasters Association (CBA), the trade association of the nation’s Class A and Low Power Television (LPTV) stations, will today file a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, formally seeking an order to the Federal Communications Commission to enforce All Channel Receiver Act and to stop the distribution and marketing of digital television (DTV) converter boxes that do not permit users to view analog television signals. 

These converter boxes, intended to allow the display of digital television (DTV) signals on analog receivers, violate the All-Channel Receiver Act (ACRA), 47 U.S.C. §303(s), and Sections 15.115(c) and 15.117(b) of the FCC’s Rules if they block reception of analog over-the-air television broadcast signals, because they do not meet the statutory requirement that they be “capable of adequately receiving all frequencies allocated by the FCC to television broadcasting.” 

The mandamus petition notes that the when it ordered that all TV sets and other TV receiving devices include digital tuners, the FCC “emphatically acknowledged the importance of displaying all programming,…[and] held that the ACRA requirement entails not only that all channels be received but also that all formats, including analog and digital, also be received. The FCC said that ‘[t]he ACRA was intended to ensure that the viewing public has access to receivers which are capable of receiving all broadcast signals. Thus, to suggest that the statutory requirements are somehow satisfied simply where a receiver picks up the frequency but is incapable of displaying the signal in a viewable format strikes us as an absurd reading of the ACRA.’” CBA points out to the Court that it is just as absurd to allow devices without analog tuners as it is to allow them without digital tuners. 

Only full power television stations, constituting less than one-fifth of all television stations, will terminate analog service on February 17, 2009. Most LPTV, Class A, and TV translator stations, constituting more than four-fifths of all stations, will continue analog broadcasting for an unknown period of time. Thus, if the FCC does not require the DTV converter boxes to comply with the ACRA, it will be impinging on the ability of viewers to access to a vast majority of the TV transmitters in the nation, which primarily serve rural and underserved urban audiences, the elderly and minorities. 

CBA President Ronald Bruno commented, “We have done all we can to work with the broadcasting, manufacturing and retailing industries. We are simply not convinced that they are willing to do what is necessary to properly educate the public and provide workable solutions for the average, over-the-air viewer. “ 

Mr. Bruno went on to say, “Converter boxes that block our analog LPTV signals will confuse viewers and significantly decrease LPTV viewership. Every time a person gets a coupon, buys a converter box and plugs it in, we lose that viewer. Boxes with an “analog pass through” feature are confusing and do not create an acceptable solution for the over the air viewer. Without an analog tuner in the converter box, our industry is facing a dire situation. LPTV’s for the most part do not have cable television must carry rights, so we depend on our over the air signal for the majority of our audience.” 

Seeking an active role by the FCC, the CBA petitioned last December for a declaratory ruling that converter boxes that block analog signals do not comply with applicable laws and regulations. Up to this point, the FCC has not issued a responsive order. If such an order were issued, manufacturers would be on notice and no longer could plead ignorance or misunderstanding if they continued to verify devices that block analog signals. 

Greg Herman, Vice President of Technology for the CBA notes, "The process of trying to work with other stakeholders in the DTV Transition has been immensely frustrating to us. It is unfortunate that in spite of our best efforts, those who simply want to keep pushing illegal converter boxes on the American public have ignored our many warnings and shown contempt and disregard for the over the air viewing audience. Our industry relies heavily on this audience, and out of respect and a desire to see that the interests of the American public are served and that American tax dollars are not further wasted on ill-conceived converter boxes, the CBA feels it must do the right thing and file this lawsuit.” 

The Community Broadcasters Association represents over 2,600 Class A and Low Power Television (“LPTV”) stations nationwide. For more information on CBA and its initiatives go to www.DTVNow.org or www.KeepUsOn.com. # # #

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