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Eshoo, Deal Back Longer Retrans Quiet Period

Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) weighed in with Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin asking for a retransmission-consent quiet period that starts before the end of the year and extends beyond the Feb. 17, 2009, date for the switch to full-power digital TV.

That was in line with what the cable industry has been seeking. Broadcasters volunteered their own proposal of a four-week quiet period -- two weeks before and two after the Feb. 17 date.

The FCC is currently considering a cable request for the quiet period, while broadcasters have said that the commission does not have the authority to impose it.

Deal, for one, has been on the same page with cable in the past about the need for reforming the retransmission-consent process.

In his and Eshoo's letter, dated Sept. 27, they said there is a "significant risk" that "more than a few" stations could be pulled from cable systems in January, given that a bunch of retrans deals expire Dec. 31. There are others expiring Oct. 1, as well.

They pointed out that the quiet period would avoid giving broadcasters leverage to pull the Super Bowl, although that would only be leverage for the NBC affiliates that have the game.

The pair said they did not favor the broadcaster-proposed shorter quiet period, saying, "While some broadcasters favor a period that would commence Feb. 4, such a plan would not avoid the loss of signals when current retransmission-consent agreements expire Dec. 31 and would, therefore, not prevent the disruption we've described above."