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Big 4 Affiliates Seek AT&T/DirecTV Local-into-Local Condition

The Big Four network affiliate associations have joined the National Association of Broadcasters in asking the FCC to require DirecTV to carry TV stations in all 210 TV markets if it wants to be able to merge with AT&T.

Satellite operators have to carry all TV stations in markets where it carries any, but has no general must-carry mandate as do cable operators.

In a filing to the FCC, which is currently vetting the AT&T/DirecTV merger proposal, the ABC Television Affiliates Association, CBS Television Network Affiliates Association, FBC Television Affiliates Association, and the NBC Television Affiliates pointed out that Dish and AT&T U-verse deliver local stations in all their markets.

By contrast, there are 11 markets (among the smallest) where DirecTV does not deliver any stations.

"Over twelve years ago, DirecTV told the FCC (as part of a then pending application) that it would deliver local-into-local television service to all 210 DMAs within three years and absolutely no later than 2008. This has not yet happened, and a condition imposed by the FCC in this proceeding will fix that broken promise."

They said that without the condition, a merged company would be even less likely to provide local-into-local service in those 11 small markets. But they said requiring it to do so would help ameliorate the harms of allowing the merged company of having the "competitive advantage" of not having the obligation to serve every market.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday (June 18) that the FCC was trying to wrap up its review of the deal quickly, but would not say whether the FCC planned to vote on it next month.

The commission has been in talks with AT&T and DirecTV about possible conditions, though that does not guarantee it will come up with sufficient conditions to approve the deal.

The markets they want station carriage in are Bowling Green, Ky. (DMA 182); Grand Junction-Montrose, Colo. (185); Cheyenne-Scottsbluff, Wyo. (196), Casper-Riverton, Wyo. (197), Ottumwa-Kirksville, Mo. (201), Victoria, Texas (203), Helena, Mont. (205), Presque Isle, Maine. (206), North Platte, Neb., Alpena, Mich. (209), Glendive, Mont. (201).

A DirecTV spokesperson had not seen the filing but said the company was unlikely to comment.