Cable ops urge Congress for retransmission ‘quiet period’ around DTV transition
Yesterday, Mediacom Communications’ SVP of Operations for North America Edward Pardini testified before a House of Representatives small-business Subcommittee on behalf of the American Cable Association (ACA) in regard to the impact of the digital TV transition on retransmission deals.
Cable operators are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to minimize the potential disruption of the digital TV transition next year by adopting a retransmission “quit period” to help ensure that retransmission negotiations are not disrupted by the transmission.
During his testimony, Pardini cautioned the Committee about the potential confusion and disruption of service that may be caused by retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and operators, scheduled for roughly the same time as the Feb. 17, 2009, digital transition.
“ACA and its members, including Mediacom, are committed to ensuring our subscribers can continue to view broadcast stations after the transition,” Pardini said. “To ensure the switch is a success, we have invested tens of millions of dollars to purchase the necessary equipment and launch consumer education programs in the communities we serve. Unfortunately, that time and money cannot address the larger threat looming over independent operators and their subscribers.
“The common practice of forcing operators to drop a broadcast signal during retransmission consent negotiations will unquestionably and unnecessarily trigger consumer confusion and disruptions in service at the worst possible time. To put an end to this and other discriminatory practices and ensure the uninterrupted service of our subscribers during the transition, we encourage this Committee to conduct a further review of these issues.”
On April 24, Mediacom, Charter Communications, Insight, Suddenlink, GCI and Cequel Communications filed a petition with the FCC that asked the Commission to adopt the retransmission quiet period.
According to the petition, “If the Commission does not act, there is a very real possibility that private commercial disputes over retransmission agreements’ consent terms will require cable operators to drop broadcast signals at the very time that the government and the public are most dependent on cable’s delivery of those signals.”
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