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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 12, 2008

FCC Chairman Favors Quiet Period

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin – a man whose successor many are speculating about – reportedly has voiced his support for a rulemaking that would establish a quiet period for broadcast carriage talks between cable operators and broadcasters during the digital television transition.
Responding to a report by Broadcasting & Cable yesterday, the American Cable Association applauded Martin for his leadership and renewed its claim that for a quiet period to be effective, it must begin no later than Dec. 31 – the expiration date of thousands of current broadcast carriage deals.
ACA president and Chief Executive Officer Matthew M. Polka said that unless the FCC (News - Alert) establishes a quiet period, “dropped signals in the months ahead will continue to cause confused cable and satellite customers to needlessly request digital-to-analog converter box coupons.”
The NTIA recently reported an uptick in households requesting coupons in some markets affected by LIN TV’s decision to pull 15 broadcast stations from 1.5 million Time Warner (News - Alert) and Bright House cable customers in 11 markets for nearly a month in October.
The Government Accountability Office’s June report to Congress found that among households that would be unaffected by the transition, which includes many cable and satellite TV customers, 30 percent actually had plans to ready themselves – despite the fact that no action is required on their part to maintain television service. The report is available here.
In October U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, and Nathan Deal, a Republican from Georgia – two lawmakers who support the establishment of a quiet period – sent a letter to NTIA Acting Secretary Meredith Baker and Martin seeking data to determine the impact of pulled stations caused by broadcast carriage disputes on the government’s coupon program.
Noting the NTIA’s report of an uptick in demand for converter box coupons in markets affected by the recent carriage dispute involving LIN TV, the lawmakers asked the NTIA to provide coupon request data from affected markets.

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David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David's articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Michael Dinan