"We are pleased Committee members have begun focusing their attention on the importance of establishing a period of time around the digital transition where neither broadcasters nor cable operators can drop broadcast signals. A ‘quiet period' would ensure consumers are not unnecessarily confused by the loss of a broadcast station, particularly for reasons unrelated to the switch to digital.
"According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) most recent report on the extent of consumer awareness about the transition, consumers are confused about what the digital transition means for them. Among those who would be unaffected by the transition, which presumably includes many cable and satellite TV subscribers, 30 percent indicate ‘they have plans to ready themselves for the transition,' despite the fact that no action will be required to maintain television service. Moreover, 45 percent of households that would be affected by the transition ‘plan inadequate or no action to prepare for the transition.'
"With so many consumers still confused about the digital transition, the prudent course of action for the government would be to impose a quiet period that begins prior to the expiration of thousands of retransmission consent agreements on December 31, 2008. This would ensure that broadcast signals remain on cable and satellite TV systems in the critical period before the digital transition, thereby eliminating any chance whatsoever of consumer confusion because of retransmission consent impasses.
"In a filing at the FCC this month, the broadcasters revealed their true motivation for opposing a quiet period that begins on or before January 1, 2009. They say it would ‘shift negotiating leverage away from broadcasters' because ‘many major broadcast events occur in the early part of 2009.' With so many consumers still confused about what the digital transition means for them, we hope the broadcasters put the public interest ahead of their own interests in profiteering."
In July, ACA formally registered its support of a petition to impose a quiet period between broadcasters and cable operators during the coming round of retransmission consent negotiations to prevent public confusion surrounding the coming digital TV transition in February 2009. ACA believes that a quiet period should begin prior to the expiration of the majority of existing retransmission consent contracts on December 31, 2008, and run through May 31, 2009, to ensure consumers are not confused by lost broadcast signals during this critical transition period. The filing is available here.
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About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing 1,100 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies that provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.
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