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HDTV Converter Box: Stunt or Solution?

The Association for Maximum Service Television Stations, Inc. (MSTV), joined by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), announced today that they intend to pursue development of a prototype high quality, low cost digital to analog converter box for terrestrial digital television reception.

MSTV and NAB will be publishing a Request for Quote (RFQ) shortly, soliciting proposals from the consumer electronics industry and others to build a prototype digital to analog converter box. It is hoped to have a working prototype by the end of the year. It is anticipated the prototype would serve as a blueprint for future products from manufacturers to serve broadcast-only television sets.

MSTV President David Donovan stated: “All agree the availability of a digital to analog converter box is a key component of the digital transition. In recent months there have been a number of manufacturers claiming they could build a low cost box. Low cost is critical, but not the only factor. These converter boxes must be consumer friendly and most importantly they must work well. Otherwise, consumers are likely to reject them. The trick will be to put a high quality receiver in a low cost, consumer friendly product. The goal of this transition should be — No viewer left behind.”

NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts stated: “A workable, low cost converter box is vital to the success of the digital transition. This project demonstrates our commitment to move the process forward. I trust the consumer electronics industry will respond favorably and join us in developing this important technology.”

In response, the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) President and CEO Gary Shapiro issued this statement:

“This publicity stunt is novel considering that no one before has suggested any problem with creating a relatively simple digital to analog converter box. The issue is market demand. No one sells the product in the U.S. today as most local broadcasters do not have full-power HDTV broadcasts and only 11 percent of TV sets are even used to receive over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting.

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“History repeats itself. The NAB commissioned a prototype model radio in 1987 and its commercial success has been underwhelming. We suggest broadcasters focus their resources on promoting OTA broadcasting, rather than trying to confuse the situation and delay a cut-off date.”

About CEA
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. Combined, CEA’s members account for more than $121 billion in annual sales. CEA’s resources are available online at www.CE.org, the definitive source for information about the consumer electronics industry.

About MSTV
MSTV is the recognized industry leader in broadcasting technology and spectrum policy issues. Formed in 1956, MSTV has endeavored to insure that the American public receive the highest quality, interference free, over-the-air local television signals. For the past decade, MSTV has been the leading advocate for advanced over-the-air digital television in the United States.

About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is a full-service trade association that promotes and protects free, over-the-air local radio and television stations’ interests in Washington and around the world. NAB is the broadcaster’s voice before Congress, federal agencies and the courts. NAB also serves a growing number of associate and international broadcaster members. Information about NAB can be found at www.nab.org.

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