ACA calls for quiet


The FCC is reportedly planning to investigate the possibility of a so-called quiet period in retransmission negotiations between broadcasters and cablers. NAB has offered a month. The American Cable Association wants half a year. ACA, which represents mostly smaller MSOs and systems, believes that the period should commence no later than 12/31/08 and run at least through the end of May. The reason for the end-of-year date is because that’s when many existing agreements are set to expire. NAB has offered too suspend negotiations for the two weeks prior to and following the 2/17/09 DTV D-Day.

RBR/TVBR observation: It’s no secret that cable companies would rather get broadcast content for free; it’s also no secret that broadcasters feel they should be compensated for valuable content.

The justification for suspending negotiations is that every once in a while they heat up to the point that broadcasters pull their stations off a cable system. Cablers argue that this will add a layer of confusion for consumers already challenged by the DTV conversion.

It is a weak argument. Negotiations that devolve into channel-pulling brinksmanship are the rare exception, not the rule. And even if it were to occur in close proximity to DTV Day, most consumers will be able to figure out what’s going on.

It is ridiculous to hang a six-month government freeze on the normal course of business on such a flimsy peg.