The American Cable Association (ACA) is cautioning Congress that the combination of the digital TV transition next year and retransmission consent negotiations that will take place around the same time frame could lead to consumer confusion.

The ACA sent out a letter today in advance of tomorrow’s House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing that is slated to review the status of the digital transition that will take place in February of next year.

In the letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Markey and ranking member Rep. Cliff Stearns, the ACA asked for active monitoring of all upcoming retransmission consent negotiations, particularly those involving small- and medium-size cable operators, to ensure that broadcasters are not forcing operators to drop signals in the months before and after the digital transition, resulting in additional transition-related consumer confusion.

Existing retransmission consent agreements between cable operators and broadcasters are generally set to expire by Dec. 31, and the ACA said independent cable operators are expecting to face difficult and potentially contentious negotiations with broadcasters.

The ACA said it expects that broadcasters will try to force small- and medium-size operators to drop their signals if their discriminatory prices, terms and conditions are not accepted. The end result could be consumer confusion since customers may think the loss of programming is related to the digital transition.

“The potential impact that retransmission consent negotiations may have on the DTV transition threatens to cause significant confusion for tens of millions of cable households,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka. “Congress has not focused on this issue thus far, but we are confident that their attention now will help broadcasters understand that pulling signals during upcoming retransmission consent negotiations as a ploy to coerce discriminatory terms from small- and medium-size cable operators threatens all of our collective efforts to ensure a successful transition.”

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