FCC Prepping to Take Comments On Retransmission ‘Quiet Period’


The Federal Communications Commission is working on a plan to seek public comment on the cable industry's so-called quiet period that would ban TV stations from pulling their signals from cable systems during the period before and after the Feb. 17, 2009, digital TV transition, according to an FCC official.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the agency needed to seek public comment in order to comply with a federal due process law and minimize litigation risk.

There have been calls from cable operators for a "quiet period" in which broadcasters would not pull their signals from cable systems in the event of a dispute over retransmission-consent compensation. Republican FCC chairman Kevin Martin supports a quiet period favorable to the broadcast industry, from Jan. 15, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2009. Democratic FCC member Jonathan Adelstein is backing a longer quiet period, more to the cable industry’s liking, from Dec. 15, 2008 to Feb. 28, 2009.

Broadcasters prefer Martin's dates because his quiet period would begin after the expiration of thousands of retransmission consent contracts on Dec. 31, 2008. That would allow stations to pull signals in early January (during the NFL playoffs and before the Feb. 1, 2009, Super Bowl) without violating the FCC's quiet period.

Last week, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow testified on Capitol Hill in support of a quiet period that starts in 2008.