FCC Fines Retailers Over Digital TV

Washington (DC) - The Federal Communications Commission has issued fines against Wal-Mart, Sears, Circuit City, Target, Best Buy and others for failing to meet requirements concerning the digital TV conversion next year.

Additionally, the governmental organization imposed fines on TV manufacturers for continuing to ship analog tuners after the deadline and for not meeting other digital TV guidelines.

On February 17, 2009, analog TV signals will be permanently switched off. Broadcasters will be forced to send out all programming over digital airwaves. Around 13 million people still rely on analog reception for their main TV set.

To ensure everyone is familiar with the switch next year, the FCC has set guidelines for the TV industry, including broadcasters, retailers and manufacturers. For example, retailers must no longer sell analog TVs or have clear signage in the store informing consumers of the upcoming change.

The commission has set fines against stores who failed to meet these guidelines, and almost every major chain was affected.

Sears got hit the hardest, with the FCC fining it around $1.1 million. Wal-Mart was handed a $992,000 fine while Circuit City faces a $712,000 fine. Target and Best Buy have been more closely following the rules, but were still hit with fines of $296,000 and $280,000, respectively.

Best Buy and Wal-Mart have both confirmed that they no longer sell analog TVs and that the fines were for previous violations.

The FCC also fined Syntax-Brillian, a TV component company, for not halting its importing/shipping of analog TV receivers. Additionally, it hit seven TV manufacturers for not following digital TV rules related to the V-Chip. Philips and Panasonic were hit the hardest with these fines, being forced to pay $450,000 and $320,000, respectively.

The government has set aside nearly $1 billion to help people with the massive change, including a coupon program that gives people a $40 credit on up to two digital converter boxes.

Other concerns over the digital TV switch include that there may be a run on the converter boxes in early 2009, that digital reception may not be fully implemented in some markets, and that regardless of the advertising campaigns people will still not be aware of the change when it happens.