ACA: NAB’s retrans ceasefire offer stinks

Wed, 08/13/2008 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Broadcasters and cable operators continue to wrangle over the terms of a ceasefire regarding program retransmission negotiations. The former have just offered a proposal that the latter considers pointless. Cable is agitating for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to intervene.

Both groups seem to agree that the digital transition is a bad time for arguments to flare over retransmission rights. In the past, some of these arguments have resulted in stations being temporarily dropped from cable operators’ lineups, aggravating viewers.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the American Cable Association (ACA) have been negotiating a so-called “quiet period” – a temporary suspension of hostilities that should occur during the period leading up to the digital transition next February, and for a defined time beyond.

The ACA favors a six-month ceasefire, starting at the beginning of January. The NAB just countered with an offer of four weeks – Feb. 4 through March 4. The cut-off date for the digital transition is Feb. 17.

Thus the ACA proposal amounts to a six-month extension of any contract due to expire on Dec. 31.

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka diplomatically thanked “some members of the National Association of Broadcasters for a retransmission consent ‘quiet period’ during the 2009 DTV transition,” but said that the NAB’s proposal would be too little, too late, to avoid the possibility of channels getting yanked during retrans disputes. 

The ACA, Polka said, “urges prompt FCC action to require such a quiet period. FCC action is necessary to implement a quiet period for all broadcasters and cable operators.  The pledge announced today by some NAB members, while appreciated, does not cover all broadcasters, many of whom are in markets served by ACA's members.

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