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NTIA Supports Retransmission Consent Quiet Period For DTV Transition

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration supports a retransmission consent quiet period surrounding the Feb. 17, 2009 DTV transition date.

In a letter to a pair of legislators, acting NTIA head Meredith Atwell Baker supported the need for maintaining a uniform DTV educational message saying, for that reason "I agree that a retransmission consent 'quiet period' would be helpful in reducing consumer confusion during the digital television transition."

Baker's letter went to Reps. Nathan Deal (R-GA) and Anna (D-CA) Eshoo, in response to their inquiries about the rates of DTV-to-analog converter box coupon redemption in 10 cities affected by a retrans stand-off between LIN TV and Time Warner that resulted in TV signals being pulled from the operators' systems.

She provided a breakdown of the coupon requests in the relevant markets, but did not characterize the data, saying only that the figures "should adequately reveal any change in coupon ordering patterns that may have occurred" at the time of the "temporary blackouts."

Baker did not weigh in on the length of that period. Broadcasters and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin want a shorter period a couple of weeks before and after the date, while cable operators want a longer period starting ASAP.

The American Cable Association said that the data in Baker's letter confirms that there was a bump in converter box coupon requests in markets where LIN TV had pulled signals.
Eshoo and Deal called on NTIA and the FCC last month to institute a "meaningful" retransmission period.

“The DTV transition is fast approaching and we can’t afford to let anything prevent a smooth and successful switchover,” said ACA President Matthew Polka in regards to Baker’s response. “With the GAO already unsure the NTIA coupon program will be able to handle the growing demand for coupons, it is essential the FCC prohibit broadcasters from pulling signals in the months before and after the transition. “