Congress has mandated that after February 17, 2009, television stations across the country must transmit only in digital signals, and may no longer transmit analog signals. After that date, consumers who rely on antennas (including outside antennas and "rabbit ears") to receive broadcast signals on TV sets having only analog tuners will need to obtain separate digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes to watch over-the-air TV.
The Commission's DTV-related enforcement efforts have focused on protecting consumers by enforcing our rules as this transition takes place. To date, the Commission has taken enforcement action in several areas: (1) the prohibition on the importation and shipment of television receivers without integrated digital tuners; (2) the labeling requirement for television receivers incapable of receiving over-the-air digital signals without a converter box; (3) the requirement that digital television receivers possess full V-Chip functionality, including not only the ability to block offensive programming, but also the ability to adjust to a future rating system; and (4) the DTV consumer education requirements for broadcasters, telecom carriers, cable operators, manufacturers, and others.
DTV tuner enforcement
The Commission's digital tuner rule specifies that as of March 1, 2007 all new television receivers must include digital tuners. This rule prohibits the manufacture, import, or interstate shipment of any device containing an analog tuner, unless it also contains a digital tuner. The Commission receives complaints and monitors U.S. Customs data to determine if companies are importing or shipping equipment with analog-only tuners in violation of this rule.
Analog-only labeling enforcement.
Despite the prohibition on manufacture and shipment, retailers may continue to sell analog-only television receivers from existing inventory. As a result, at the point of sale many consumers may not be aware that this equipment will not be able to receive over-the-air-television signals after February 17, 2009. To address this issue, the FCC has adopted a rule requiring sellers to display in their stores, catalogs, and websites the following text if they are selling TV equipment that only has an analog broadcast tuner:
Consumer AlertThis television receiver only has an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009 to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission's digital television webpage.
DTV V-Chip enforcement
FCC rules require that, effective March 15, 2006, manufacturers and importers of digital television receiving equipment shipped in interstate commerce must ensure that their devices have the ability to block programs using the universal V-Chip rating system currently used by broadcasters. Section 15.120(d)(2) of the Commission's rules also requires manufacturers to ensure that their digital television receiving devices have the ability "to respond to changes in the content advisory rating system."
DTV Consumer Education enforcement. On February 19, 2008, the Commission adopted requirements for broadcasters, manufacturers, Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (i.e., cable and satellite television providers), Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs), and others to educate the public about the upcoming digital transition. Specifically, broadcasters must air Public Service Announcements, screen crawls, and other transmissions with information about the digital transition and the NTIA digital-to-analog converter box coupon program. Broadcasters also must report their compliance with these requirements on a quarterly basis. MVPDs must send information about the transition and converter box coupon program to their customers via monthly bill inserts. ETCs must send similar information to customers participating in the Lifeline/Link-Up programs, which provide low-income consumers with assistance in obtaining telephone service. Manufacturers must include notices of the digital transition and the converter box coupon program with certain devices manufactured after May 30, 2008.
Complaints about potential violations of any of the above requirements may be filed via:
- Electronic Complaint Form FCC Form 2000
- U.S. Mail sent to:
- Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
- FCC Enforcement Bureau, Spectrum Enforcement Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
- Toll Free: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY
- Fax: 1-866-418-0232