FCC to Take 'Quiet’ Comments


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, an FCC official said last week.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the FCC needed to seek public comment 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 around the time of the transition.

Republican FCC chairman Kevin Martin supports a quiet period favorable to the broadcast industry, from Jan. 15, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2009. Democratic member Jonathan Adelstein is backing a longer quiet period, more to the cable industry’s liking, from Dec. 15, 2008 to Feb. 28, 2009.

If the FCC adopts a quiet period, broadcasters would prefer Martin’s dates because his 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 National Football League playoffs and before the Feb. 1, 2009, Super Bowl) without violating the FCC’s quiet period.