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Consumer Electronics Association Sees Promise After Elections

Consumer education about HDTV, the global environment and trade, intellectual property law, and technology jobs are some of the top issues on the Consumer Electronics Association's agenda in the upcoming year.
The consumer electronics industry has its eye on Washington this week and has laid out some of its public policy priorities.

"What happens in Washington, in the states and towns, affects how we do business," Consumer Electronics Association president and CEO Gary Shapiro said during CEA's annual preview event in New York Wednesday. "Yesterday there was a sea-change in Washington."

Shapiro identified consumer education about HDTV, the global environment and trade, intellectual property law, technology jobs, and support of the digital freedom campaign as some of the top issues on CEA's agenda in the upcoming year.

With a 2009 deadline to switch from analog to digital looming, industry leaders are supporting the analog-to-digital converter box assistance program. Under the program, every household should be eligible to obtain two coupons from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Shapiro said. Each coupon is valued at $40 and goes toward the purchase of converter boxes.

CEA is also pushing for nationwide recycling laws, which would make it easier for manufacturers and resellers now dealing with different rules in different states, Shapiro said. "That makes it difficult to do business. We want Congress to pass something national so that the same products can be sold under the same rules, with the same approach."

Shapiro said consumers have the right to use technology lawfully, "no matter how many times the Motion Picture Association [of America] and the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] try to stop it."

The two groups are trying to stop illegal Internet downloads and other forms of piracy, saying that it's eating into the profits of music and entertainment companies and those of artists.

The Democratic majority in Congress will likely support the consumer electronic industry's agenda, Shapiro predicted.

The industry has met spending expectations for 2006 of $140 billion, and is on track to meet the $150 billion spending forecast for 2007.