Affiliates of the big four networks this week agreed not to jerk any signals from cable or satellite systems for a month during next year“s analog shutdown. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliate groups said they would support a “quiet period” proposed by the National Association of Broadcasters earlier in the week. The NAB suggested that no signals be pulled in the course of retransmission spats between Feb. 4 and March 4, 2009. Analog transmitters must be shut down by law next Feb. 17 at midnight.
Pulling signals is an increasingly common tactic in retransmission fee negotiations. Broadcasters have pursued the fees in recent years after providing signals free to cable and satellite for nearly two decades. When those multichannel providers started charging premiums for HDTV, including broadcast channels, broadcasters sought a monthly, per-subscriber fee similar to what cable-only networks receive. Many of those original retrans deals will expire at the end of this year.
Kyle McSlarrow, chief of the major cable lobby, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the quiet period should start before the deals end.
“Any voluntary quiet period that does not begin before the agreements actually expire--or which is too brief to preclude potentially confusing messages about broadcast carriage during the time of the actual DTV transition--represents the illusion of a commitment and does not serve the consumer,” he said in a statement.
Echostar“s Dish Network also requested an extended quiet period, and Matt Polka, head of the American Cable Association that represents mostly smaller operations, was likewise disposed.
“ACA believes that a quiet period should begin no later than Jan. 1, 2009, if not earlier, and run through May 31, 2009, to ensure consumers are not confused or lose broadcast signals during this critical transition period, and ACA urges prompt FCC action to require such a quiet period,” Polka also said in the statement.
In addition to the network affiliate groups, the quiet period proposal was endorsed by the ABC and NBC networks, ION, Univision, Telemundo, Belo, Barrington Broadcasting, Bonneville, Post-Newsweek Stations, Gannett, Citadel, Hearst-Argyle, LIN, Morgan Murphy Media, Media General, Dispatch, Cox, Meredith, News-Press and Gazette Broadcasting, Raycom, Quincy Newspaper stations, Scripps broadcast stations, Tribune, Freedom, Young and Woods.