FCC Will Seek Comment On Retrans Quiet Period

Martin continues to side with broadcasters on a shorter period

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said Monday that he thought a retransmission consent quiet period was important to the DTV transition and that the FCC would wind up seeking more info on the proposal, but he continues to side with broadcasters on a shorter period, rather than the longer period pushed by the cable industry.

"I think that it is important as you approach the DTV transition, but I don't think we should be using the DTV transition as an excuse to be interfering with the normal contractural negotiations are occurring."

Martin had proposed an order adopting a period stretching from the end of January throughout the transition to "stabilize the number of channels that were available then."

But the other four commissioners want to gather more information and have supported putting out a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking first. 

"I think we will be putting out a notice and we'll consider what to do then."

Cable operators would prefer the FCC prevent TV stations from withdrawing their TV signals during retransmission consent impasses starting at the end of this year, arguing the loss of signals could confuse viewers into thinking it was related to the DTV transition rather than an inability for TV stations and cable operators to come to terms over cable carriage of TV signals.

TV stations can either opt for must-carry, which means cable operators have to/get to carry them for free, or negotiate payment or other consideration for carriage, but with no guarantee of carriage if those negotiations do not result in a carriage agreement.