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NAB: FCC Should Deny Quiet-Period Request

The National Association of Broadcasters came out against an extended retransmission-consent “quiet period” surrounding the digital-TV transition Feb. 17. 2009.

In a meeting with a Federal Communications Commission staffer Sept. 5, according to a letter outlining the discussion, representatives of the NAB said that while they supported a Feb. 4-March 4 quiet period, during which broadcasters would agree not to remove their signals from cable systems, they opposed a petition by Mediacom Communications, Charter Communications and other cable operators for a longer quiet period extending from December 2008, when a number of contracts expire, through the end of May 2009.

The NAB told the commission 75% of commercial TV stations support the month-long quiet period, but that for the FCC to force a longer period on broadcasters is “regulatory interference” that “was never contemplated by Congress.”

The NAB argued that there was “no chance” that consumers would confuse a retransmission-consent dispute that began in December or January with some kind of equipment failure or other snafu connected to the DTV transition in mid-February.”

It also noted that “many major broadcast events” will occur in early 2009 -- think National Football League playoffs and Super Bowl -- and that a quiet period longer than one month would “shift significant negotiating leverage away from broadcasters to MVPDs [multichannel-video providers],” and without a resulting benefit to the public that could justify such a government thumb on the scale.

The NAB said it was prompted to contact the FCC after reports that the commission was considering acting on the petition without releasing a public notice seeking comment, which would be surprising given the criticism leveled at it last year over the public notice, or lack of it, for its proposals and decisions.