The Electronics Industries Association has condemned as "arbitrary" and "unconstitutional" proposed legislation that would permit the Federal Communications Commission to specify what receiving channels are to be built into TV sets at the factory. FCC-sponsored bills in both houses of Congress would give the Commission authority to dictate "performance standards" of all TV receivers shipped in interstate commerce.
The bills are the first step in the FCC's plan to untangle the increasingly complex TV-allocation problem. Though 70 uhf channels are available to supplement the 12 heavily used vhf channels, traffic is extremely light at the upper end of the spectrum.
The five allocation plans being considered are:
Retention of the present 82-channel vhf-uhf system.
A 70-channel all-uhf system.
A 50-channel vhf system retaining the present 12 vhf channels.
A contiguous 50-channel vhf system retaining the present channels 7 through 13.
Opinion is divided as to the increased cost of all-channel TV receivers. FCC engineers believe that a continuous TV spectrum, which might permit the use of continuous-strip tuners, might add "no more than $10" to the retail cost of each mass-produced receiver. An NAB engineer felt, however, that allocation of a continuous spectrum was by no means assured. A divided spectrum would result in the use of turret tuners that cost "at least $25 per set." (Electronic Design, May, 11, 1960, p. 38)
The EIA continued to oppose action to require uhf reception. But in 1962, Congress ordered that all TV sets manufactured after May 1964, to receive both vhf and uhf signals—another example of the involvement of government in a fast-moving technology-based business. In hindsight, I wonder if the change was worthwhile, considering the pervasiveness of cable TV. I always found it difficult to receive over-the-air uhf signals, and it wasn't until I hooked up to cable that I watched those stations. Are there, or were there, areas of the country where uhf over-the-air transmissions provided an important source of TV programming for a large segment of the population?