NCTA's McSlarrow Praises FCC, Broadcasters

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow opened his remarks at an Federal Communications Commission public meeting on the DTV transition Thursday with a shout-out to acting chairman Michael Copps's "extraordinary leadership."
He then added accolades for the other two FCC commissioners by extension, saying that the teamwork and collegiality they had all shown had made a "real impact" on communications stakeholders.
McSlarrow's remarks came in contrast to the impact of the commission on cable under Copps's predecessor Kevin Martin, whose apparent anti-cable agenda -- Martin billed it as fair and pro-consumer -- had once prompted McSlarrow to liken it to a vendetta.
McSlarrow made brief remarks at the session about a transition that is primarily broadcasters' issue, but he used some of his time for praise.
He said that while cable and broadcast clearly disagreed on a number of issues, they had worked well together to try to make the transition work. In addition to cable's major role in coordinating the DTV call center effort, the two industries have been working together for a year or two with coordinating the "hand-off" of the new digital signals to cable head-ends.
McSlarrow also cited Association for Maximum Service Television President David Donovan for "extraordinary" work on the "nitty-gritty engineering and technical work" with local cable operators.
As to the call center effort, McSlarrow pointed out that the government had not made it easy, saying the date had been whipsawed around from a) Feb. 17 to b) June 12 to c) everything in between to the final answer d) all of the above.
McSlarrow seconded suggestions from the FCC's point person, Andrew Martin, but mentioned an additional concern over the potential volume of Spanish speakers.
He pointed out that while only 2% of the viewers to stations that pulled the plug Feb. 17 were Spanish speaking, 13% of the calls came from Spanish speakers. McSlarrow said that was not a problem since there was more built-in capacity for that date than was needed. But he said that for the next wave, perhaps 30% of the call center operators might need to be able to speak Spanish.
McSlarrow said March 17 would be an important date for the call center operation. That's when stations must tell the FCC when they plan to pull the plug, on June 12, or sometime before -- though if the FCC has its way the change won't occurebefore April 16. That will provide a better read on when the peaks for call volume might be in addition to June 12.
The White House approached the cable industry to help with the call centers given the industry's years of experience in that area.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.