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Low-Power Broadcasters Sue Over Digital Conversion

The low-power television industry says it is facing a "death sentence" due to a kink in the government's move to force all broadcasters to shift to digital signals--and its trade group wants the courts to stay the alleged execution. The Community Broadcasters Association, which represents owners of small television stations, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to ban digital set-top converter boxes that are not equipped to receive analog signals, a ploy that could derail the entire transition.

Currently, as of Feb. 18, 2009, all full-power television stations in the U.S. will have to stop broadcasting in analog signal--and anyone who gets their programming via antenna and does not have a newer digital TV set has to buy a converter box to watch anything at all. To grease the skids, Uncle Sam is offering two $40 coupons per household to help offset the cost.

The problem faced by 2,600 low-power television stations is that they are not subject to the deadline, and most converter boxes will block their signals. So the CBA, in a petition filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wants the FCC to "prevent the marketing and distribution" of the boxes. It cites a 1962 law--the "All Channel Receiver Act"--that requires devices that receive television signals be capable of picking up "all frequencies allocated by the commission to television broadcasting." While it is not clear how many viewers would be affected, the group says its audience is mostly rural, underserved urban, elderly and non-English-speaking people.

Read the whole story at Associated Press via »

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