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Big 4 Affils Seek AT&T-DirecTV Local TV Condition

WASHINGTON — The Big Four’s network-affiliate associations have joined the National Association of Broadcasters in asking the Federal Communications Commission to require DirecTV to carry TV stations in all 210 TV markets if it wants to be able to merge with AT&T.

Satellite-TV operators such as DirecTV are required to carry all local TV stations in markets where they carries any station, but they aren’t subject to the general must-carry mandate that cable operators must abide by.

In a filing to the FCC, which is currently vetting the proposed merger of telco AT&T and DirecTV, affiliate groups representing ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations pointed out that both Dish Network (DirecTV’s main satellite competitor) and telco TV provider AT&T U-verse TV deliver local stations in all of their markets.

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

 “Over 12 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,” the affiliate groups said in the filing. “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 AT&T-DirecTV to do so on its satellite platform 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 agency was trying to wrap up its review of the deal ASAP, but would not say whether the commission planned to vote on it next month.

The FCC 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 where the affiliates are seeking carriage are: Bowling Green, Ky. (DMA 182); Grand Junction-Montrose, Colo. (185); Cheyenne-Scottsbluff, Wyo. (196), Casper-Riverton, Wyo. (197), Ottumwa-Kirksville, Miss. (201), Victoria, Tex. (203), Helena, Mont. (205), Presque Isle, Me. (206), North Platte, Neb. (Neb.), Alpena, Mich. (209), Glendive, Mont. (201).

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