Dish Supports Retrans Quiet Period


Dish Network, which is in the midst of a retransmission-consent dispute that dropped four TV stations off its lineup, Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to impose a so-called “quiet period” that would prevent broadcasters from pulling their signals during the all-digital transition next February.

In a letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, Dish Network said it supports the request for a “quiet period,” which was first sought by small and mid-sized cable operators

Dish Network asked that the “quiet period” maintain existing retransmission-consent deals until May 31 next year. The deadline for the transition to all-digital broadcast signals is Feb. 17.

The quiet period would mean that broadcasters couldn’t pull their stations off cable systems or satellite providers even if their retransmission consent deals with those distributors have expired. Many of those deals are set to expire Dec. 31.

“Adopting a quiet period for all pay TV providers would ensure that commercial disputes do not disrupt service to consumers and add to the confusion surrounding one of the most difficult technical and operational transitions in U.S. television history,” Dish Network said in its letter to Martin.

Right now the satellite provider is in a retransmission-consent squabble with Citadel Communications, and last Friday it dropped four of the broadcaster’s Midwestern stations from its lineup.

The stations that lost Dish Network carriage are: WHBF, a CBS affiliate in Davenport, Iowa; WOI, an ABC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa; KLKN, an ABC affiliate in Lincoln, Neb.; and KCAU, an ABC affiliate in Sioux City, Iowa.

Dish Network said it was “forced” to remove the four stations because its retransmission consent deal with Citadel expired July 31, and both sides have failed to reach a new pact. The satellite provider claims Citadel is seeking an exorbitant price increase for carriage of its stations, while the broadcaster said it is only trying to get the market rate.

The quiet period would be “a common sense and pro-consumer means to separate out digital transition-related disruptions from commercial disputes between broadcasters and pay TV providers,” Dish Network told Martin. 

Dish Network also voiced support for additional retransmission-consent reform that the American Cable Association, the lobbying group for independent cable companies, is seeking, including the end of forced bundling and tying of programming.

In terms of the cash compensation and license fees that broadcasters are receiving, Dish Network said that the FCC “should consider allowing all other pay TV providers to opt into the ‘market’ rate agreed to by the broadcasters and incumbent major cable providers.”

Dish Network also asked the FCC to investigate what broadcasters do with the fees they receive in exchange for retransmission consent for their stations.

“Broadcasters should be required to provide the commission with clear evidence and documentation that retransmission consent fees are used to increase the amount of locally based content available to communities,” the satellite provider said in its letter.