Dish Joins Cable in Opposing NAB Quiet Period Start Date


Dish Network Wednesday joined its rival, the cable industry, in opposing the start time that broadcaster’s have proposed for a retransmission-consent “quiet period” next year.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Broadcasters said that its many of its member had pledged not to pull their signals from cable systems from Feb. 4 to March 4 next year to ensure a seamless transition to all-digital broadcast Feb. 17. And on Wednesday, the NAB announced that the boards of directors of the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate organizations in fact had agreed to support that voluntary month-long quiet period.

But the NAB’s proposal has drawn opposition from the cable industry, from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association, with satellite provider Dish Network joining in as well on Wednesday.

The issue is the quiet-period start date the NAB has proposed, Feb. 4. Thousands of retransmission-consent carriage deals between cable operators, and presumably satellite, expire Dec. 31, raising worries that disputes that extend past Feb. 3 would not be suspended under the NAB quiet period. In other words, distributors would not have the right to bring back TV stations that were withholding their signals when Feb. 4 arrived under the NAB-proposed quiet period.

Dish Network wants the quiet period to start Dec. 15, while the NTCA and the ACA want it to begin or before Jan. 1. However, Dish Network said it supports the quiet period ending March 4, like the NAB, while the NCTA and ACA want it to end May 31.

“Dish Network supports efforts by all stakeholders – the broadcasters, the cable industry, satellite providers, and government officials – to establish a retrans quiet period surrounding the digital transition in February 2009,” the satellite provider said in its statement Wednesday.

“However, starting the quiet period any later than December is pointless, because it will not capture the lion’s share of retransmission consent agreements that expire at the end of the year,” Dish Network said. “Thus, Dish Network supports a FCC-imposed retrans quiet period that begins on Dec. 15, 2008 and, in the spirit of compromise, also agrees to the NAB proposed end date of March 4, 2009.  We hope all broadcasters, even those that are not NAB TV Board members, will agree to work together for the benefit of consumers.”

The Big Four affiliate boards' endorsement of the NAB-proposed quiet period was accompanied by a statement Wednesday from NAB television board chairman K. James Yager, CEO of Barrington Broadcasting.

“We are delighted that all of the affiliate boards have agreed to support the NAB Television Board initiative,” he said. “This pledge—coupled with our unprecedented campaign to educate America on the DTV transition—will minimize consumer confusion and help local broadcasters and governments achieve our joint objective of a seamless transition to the next generation of television.”