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More 'Quiet Period' Noise

Jeff Baumgartner

12:30 PM -- U.S. cable's push for a lengthy retrans "quiet period" before and after the digital TV transition received some important support from Capitol Hill yesterday.

In a letter fired off to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) (NTIA), Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) backed cable's position by requesting that retransmission negotiations between cable, satellite, and telco TV operators and broadcasters be suspended, suggesting that such a "quiet period" begin before Dec. 31, 2008, and extend through March 1, 2009.

Dropped signals, "as a result of broadcast carriage disputes, could needlessly confuse cable and satellite customers and interfere with the transition," they wrote.

As proof, they note that the NTIA recently detected an uptick in consumer demand for over-the-air digital-to-analog converter boxes in the markets affected by an ongoing retransmission dispute between LIN Television and two cable operators: Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Bright House Networks .

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has proposed a "voluntary" quiet period that runs from Feb. 4, 2009 through March 4, 2009. The cable industry has argued that it's not enough and could make further carriage squabbles unavoidable. (See 'Quiet Period' Noise .) The American Cable Association (ACA) , for example, wants the FCC to adopt a six-month quiet period that runs from Jan. 1 through May 31, 2009.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) president & CEO Kyle McSlarrow applauded the letter from Eshoo and Deal, noting that many retrans consent deals expire at the end of this year. "The NAB's proposal… is nothing more than a hollow gesture," he said in a prepared statement. "The digital transition will be challenging enough without burdening consumers with ill-timed retransmission consent disputes.”

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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