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All-Channel Receiver Act

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All-Channel Receiver Act
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to amend the Communications Act of 1934 in order to give the Federal Communications Commission certain regulatory authority over television receiving apparatus.
Acronyms (colloquial)ACRA
NicknamesAll-Channels Act
Enacted bythe 87th United States Congress
Public lawPub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 87–529
Statutes at Large76 Stat. 150
Acts amendedCommunications Act of 1934
Titles amended47
U.S.C. sections created47 U.S.C. § 330
U.S.C. sections amended47 U.S.C. § 303
Legislative history

The All-Channel Receiver Act of 1962 (ACRA) (47 U.S.C. § 303(s)), commonly known as the All-Channels Act, was passed by the United States Congress in 1961, to allow the Federal Communications Commission to require that all television set manufacturers must include UHF tuners, so that new UHF-band TV stations (then channels 14 to 83) could be received by the public. This was a problem at the time since most affiliated stations of the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) were well-established on VHF, while many local-only stations on UHF were struggling for survival.

The All-Channel Receiver Act provides that the Federal Communications Commission shall "have authority to require that apparatus designed to receive television pictures broadcast simultaneously with sound be capable of adequately receiving all frequencies allocated by the Commission to television broadcasting."[1] Under authority provided by the All Channel Receiver Act, the FCC adopted a number of technical standards to increase parity between the UHF and VHF television services, including a 14 dB maximum UHF noise figure for television receivers.


While the first U.S. commercially licensed UHF television stations signed on as early as 1952, the majority of the 165 UHF stations to begin telecasting between 1952 and 1959 did not survive. UHF local stations of the 1950s were limited by the range their signals could supposedly travel, the lack of UHF tuners in most TV sets and difficulties in finding advertisers and TV network affiliations. Of the 82 new UHF TV stations in the United States broadcasting as of June 1954, only 24 remained on the air a year later.[2]

Fourth-network operators such as the DuMont Television Network, forced to expand using UHF affiliates due to a lack of available VHF channels, were not viable and soon folded. The fraction of new TV receivers that were factory-equipped with all-channel tuners dropped from 20% in 1953 to 9.0% by 1958, a drop that was only partially compensated for by field upgrades or the availability of UHF converters for separate purchase. By 1961, with 83 commercial UHF stations still on-air, the number of new TVs capable of receiving UHF as well as VHF channels had fallen to a record low of 5.5%[3] with a small number of viable stations situated in localities where a lack of available VHF frequencies had forced early expansion onto UHF.

While public educational television was available from 105 US stations by 1965,[4] many of them in the already-crowded VHF spectrum, only 18 percent of the large number of UHF frequencies reserved for educational use in US cities were in active use. In areas where audiences had no UHF receivers, a station broadcasting above channel 13 was unlikely to survive.

Under the All-Channel Receiver Act, FCC regulations would ensure that all new TV sets sold in the U.S. after 1964 had built-in UHF tuners. By 1971, there would be more than 170 full-service UHF broadcast stations nationwide;[5] the number of UHF stations would grow further to accommodate new television networks such as the Public Broadcasting Service (1970), Fox (1986), Univision (1986) and Telemundo (1987).

Today, UHF TV stations outnumber their long-established VHF counterparts, with more stations switching to physical UHF channels after the digital TV transition of 2009.

Digital television[edit]

The act has most recently been used in 2005-2007 (47 CFR 15.115 and 47 CFR 15.117) to require TV manufacturers to include ATSC-T (terrestrial TV) tuners for digital television, in any TV set that includes an NTSC analog TV tuner. This requirement has been phased-in during the mid-2000s, starting with the largest TV sets. By early 2007, every device sold that was capable of receiving over-the-air TV (including VCRs) was required to include an ATSC tuner. Millions of dollars in fines were imposed in 2008 by the Federal Communications Commission against vendors, including various name-brand retail chains such as Best Buy, Sears/Kmart and Walmart. Best Buy is disputing both the fines and the authority of the FCC to impose the penalties;[6] Circuit City and Sears also disputed the charges.

In late March 2008, the Community Broadcasters Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, seeking an injunction to halt the sale and distribution of DTV converter boxes,[7] charging that their failure to include analog tuners or analog passthrough violates the All-Channel Receiver Act.[8] Responding to CBA's actions, the FCC and NTIA urged manufacturers to include the feature voluntarily in all converter boxes, and manufacturers responded by releasing a new generation of models with the feature. In early May 2008, the D.C. district court denied the CBA petition without comment,[9] effectively telling the association that it had not exhausted all its efforts, and that there was not enough merit to take the case to the courts.

In July 2010, the FCC granted a waiver allowing Dell, LG, and Hauppauge to fail to include tuners for NTSC analog TV or standard ATSC digital TV in mobile television devices designed to receive ATSC-M/H signals. While all full-power stations have been forced to turn off their analog signals, and most low-power TV stations therefore have been forced to digital as the de facto standard, the vast majority of stations do not transmit a mobile-TV signal, which will leave viewers with these devices unable to receive most broadcasts. Because LPTV stations have already had their limited financial resources drained by having to buy and install new digital equipment, it is unlikely that any LPTV stations will be seen on mobile TV because of this waiver, which also applies to other companies.[10]

Broadcast radio[edit]

It has been proposed in 2009 to require HD Radio receivers to be included in all satellite radio (SDARS) receivers, in response to the monopoly created by the XM/Sirius merger. All three use proprietary systems, and there have been no considerations to require the inclusion of open standards like FMeXtra, DRM+, DAB+ or DMB, which are compatible anywhere outside of the United States. A notice of inquiry (a predecessor to a full rulemaking proceeding) is before the FCC as docket 08-172. A bill had been submitted to the U.S. House as the Radio All Digital Channel Receiver Act[11][12] in 2008 but was not passed into law.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-10. Retrieved 2009-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Tulsa TV history thesis, Chapter 3 (KCEB)". tulsatvmemories.com. Archived from the original on 2006-09-14. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  3. ^ The FCC and the All-Channel Receiver Bill of 1962 Archived 2008-10-25 at the Wayback Machine, LAWRENCE D. LONGLEY, JOURNAL OF BROADCASTING. Vol. XLII. NO. 3 (Summer 1969)
  4. ^ "PBPB | Public Broadcasting PolicyBase". www.current.org. Archived from the original on March 5, 2009.
  5. ^ Stay Tuned: A History of American Broadcasting; pp 387-388; Christopher H. Sterling, John M. Kittross; Erlbaum 2002; ISBN 978-0-8058-2624-1
  6. ^ "Best Buy: FCC has no power to fine us over analog TVs". Ars Technica. 19 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 September 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Community Broadcasters Association". dtvnow.org. Archived from the original on 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  8. ^ "Community Broadcasters Association petitions court to order DTV converter halt". Archived from the original on December 4, 2008.
  9. ^ "Broadcast – Production – NAB - Broadband – Satellite – Mobile – www.tvtechnology.com". tvtechnology.com. Archived from the original on 2008-07-24.
  10. ^ "Media Bureau grants waiver of NTSC, A/53 receiver requirement for Mobile DTV devices". Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  11. ^ "FCC may mandate HD Radio reception by satellite receivers". radiomagonline.com. Archived from the original on 2010-11-27. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  12. ^ "Rep. Markey launches bill for HD Radio mandate in all Satellite Radios". orbitcast.com. Archived from the original on 2008-11-03. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
  13. ^ H.R. 7157: Radio All Digital Channel Receiver Act Archived 2008-11-30 at the Wayback Machine, 110th Congress 2007-2008