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DISH Network asks FCC for retransmission quiet period

DISH Network has sided with the American Cable Association in requesting that the FCC require a retransmission consent to a “quiet period” when the transition to digital television occurs next February. The satellite broadcaster has asked the commission to unbundle programming and consider a standstill provision that would prevent stations from withdrawing their signals while the FCC considers complaints.

When the DTV transition is complete, DISH said the FCC should then proceed to reform the retransmission consent process.

“Small and midsized cable providers have requested that the commission adopt a retransmission-consent ‘quiet period’ that would maintain the status quo during the fragile period surrounding the digital transition. We agree,” wrote Linda Kinney, vice president of law and regulation for DISH. “Adopting a quiet period for all pay TV providers would ensure that commercial disputes do not disrupt service to consumers and add to the confusion surrounding one of the most difficult technical and operational transitions in U.S. television history.”

DISH Network representatives also asked the FCC to consider allowing smaller pay TV providers to “opt in” to the rate charged to larger operators, which generally have to pay less for the programming. They also want to require broadcasters to provide “clear evidence and documentation that retransmission-consent fees are used to increase the amount of locally based content available to communities.”

In an unrelated issue, the “Wall Street Journal” reported that DISH might now want to try again on a merger with DIRECTV after DISH reported losing 25,000 subscribers in the second quarter.

When a merger was attempted in 2001, it was rejected by federal regulators. However, DISH CEO Charlie Ergen thinks a 90 percent drop in subscriber growth could cause a re-evaluation of the issue.