Earlier this week, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing: “Status of the DTV Transition: 154 Days and Counting.” As a reminder that the Digital TV Transition is about over-the-air broadcast TV stations, one could note some of the issues raised in press coverage.
- Lawmakers See Challenges for TV Transition (WaPo)
- Early Digital-TV Switch Has Flaw: Viewers Could Lose Certain Channels on Permanent Basis (WSJ)
Some viewers had issues in Wilmington with over-the-air reception of the new DTV signal; some had problems setting up converter boxes with their analog TV sets.
NCTA President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow had a little different perspective, as he testified at that hearing. He focused on the issue of retransmission consent and how it would be effected by the transition. This FCC fact sheet covers the details, but suffice to say that retrans (and the related term “must carry”) refer to how cable operators can carry broadcast stations.
Here is some of the coverage of his testimony:
- Retranmission Deals May Get Derailed by DTV Transition, Cable Operators Warn (TV Week)
- McSlarrow: Retrans Uncertainty Creates Cable ‘Storm’ (MediaDailyNews)
- DTV “quiet period” debate gets noisy in Congress (Ars Technica)
Here is a link to the text of McSlarrow’s comments and I’ve embedded the audio below (which runs just under six minutes).
To help you understand this, you need to understand that retrans and must carry play a critical role in ensuring you can see your local broadcast stations as part of your cable lineup. Some of the existing deals will lapse around the end of the year, right before the Feb. 17 transition date.
“In recent months, we have discussed with NAB the need to recognize the potential for consumer confusion and disruption involved with retransmission consent disputes that might arise as we approach the broadcasters’ digital TV transition on February 17, 2009. We appreciate NAB’s acknowledgment that this is a very real concern, and continue to support efforts to minimize potential consumer confusion through the adoption of a quiet period. But the reality is that many outstanding retransmission consent agreements expire by the end of 2008. 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.”