|Congressional DTV Leaders Declare Support for Firm Analog Cut-Off Date
March 18, 2005
Sarasota, FL - Four congressional DTV leaders led a chorus of support for the establishment of a hard cut-off date for analog television broadcasts at the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) 10th Annual HDTV Summit, held this week in Washington, D.C.
"Soon, DTV will be known as TV," said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. "The standout will remain HDTV. CEA has aggressive projections for future HDTV sales, but how American consumers will judge our work remains to be seen and largely depends on our actions going forward."
Addressing conference attendees, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, indicated he would introduce legislation on the issue of a firm, analog cut-off date later this spring or summer.
"Everybody wants the certainty of a set date except for the broadcasters," Barton said. He stated that the projected $4 billion to $5 billion windfall that is expected from the auction of the returned spectrum could help fund the transition costs for those consumers who cannot afford to buy digital tuners. He concluded by encouraging Summit attendees to get involved on Capitol Hill and educate lawmakers about how the digital transition affects consumers.
"I'm on the same page as Joe Barton," said Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications. "The cut-off could be financed by the proceeds of the spectrum auction. Education is a critical component in preparing the consumer."
Senator John Ensign (R-NV), chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation and Competitiveness related that "A date certain is what we need so there is predictability in the market so consumers will invest." He added, "Educate members of Congress why a date certain is so important."
Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, and CEA's Shapiro immediately contended that broadcasters were the most notable hurdle to the transition. Defending his industry, MSTV President David Donovan countered that consumers were ultimately blocking the transition. The entire panel agreed more consumer education is needed by industry and Congress and that the best date for an analog cut-off is sooner, rather than later. Several argued, however, that the original date of 2006 is still the goal.
"An important consideration for driving future sales is to sell the experience, including what HD shows are available, instead of just focusing on the technology," offered panelist Philip Swann, CEO of TV Predictions. Fellow panelists Sean Wargo, CEA director of industry analysis, and Josh Bernoff, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, announced updated DTV sales projections. Wargo said DTV unit sales would reach 20 million units in 2005 alone, amounting to 36 million cumulative units sold since introduction; Bernoff was more cautious, projecting total DTV unit sales of 50 million from market introduction in 1998 through 2009.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, addressed Summit attendees during the CEA's 5th Annual Academy of Digital Television Pioneers Awards luncheon as he accepted his award for Best DTV Government Leadership. McCain, who also backs a hard analog cut-off date, expressed his support for Barton's bill.
The CEA's 10th annual HDTV Summit concluded with an HDTV prize drawing from ESPN HD and speculation about what next year's Summit will have in store. Many agreed the 11th annual HDTV Summit will likely focus on financing the cut-off date and continued broadcaster resistance.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the consumer technology industry through technology policy, events, research, promotion and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA represents more than 2,000 corporate members involved in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and integration of audio, video, mobile electronics, wireless and landline communications, information technology, home networking, multimedia and accessory products, as well as related services that are sold through consumer channels.
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