DirecTV Accuses Blacked-Out TV Stations of ‘Betraying the Public Trust’

Mission Broadcasting

After its request to have White Knight Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting restore the signals of their stations through Election Day was rejected, DirecTV accused the broadcasters of “abandoning their journalistic integrity and betraying the public trust.”

Because of a dispute over retransmission-consent payments, the White Knight stations have been blacked out since October 7 to DirecTV subscribers and the Mission Broadcasting stations have been dark since October 21.

DirecTV has directed some of the blame for the blackout on giant Nexstar Media Group. Both White Knight and Mission have agreements under which Nexstar manages ad sales, news production, equipment maintenance and other functions for the stations.

“White Knight Broadcasting and Mission Broadcasting, both actively managed by Nexstar Media Group, have flat-out refused our requests to return their 25 local stations to our customers in 23 media markets through the results of the Nov. 8 midterm elections,” DirecTV said in a statement Friday.

“At the same time, our offer to return the stations and be compensated at a new future higher rate remains completely open, both station groups continue to use their Nexstar-managed news services to propagate the outright lie and misinformation that DirecTV has ‘forced off’ or otherwise ‘removed’ the same stations. Each broadcaster involved has made clear that abandoning journalistic integrity and betraying the public trust are not only acceptable, but readily available, in their shameless pursuit of financial fortunes,” the satellite-TV provider said. 

Mission and White Knight say they negotiate their own retransmission deals.

“We definitely considered the DirecTV offer to reinstate the stations until the midterms, but at this point we don’t feel like that's going to advance the ball,” Dennis Thatcher, president of Mission Broadcasting told Broadcasting+Cable. “All it will do is delay the inevitable and there's always the potential for another takedown.” 

Thatcher said that rather than reinstate the signal and wait to see what happens, he wants both parties to get together and craft a deal that’s good for both sides.

“There’s a new normal in America and our costs have increased,” Thatcher said. “While our cost of programming continues to rise, we’re all adding more and more local programming and we think we’re adding more value. All we want is to be compensated for that value.”

Earlier this week, White Knight president Toby Malara told B+C  that DirecTV shouldn’t pin responsibility for the blackout on the stations.

“DirecTV should not cast blame upon the White Knight stations for DirecTV’s own failure to make a meaningful offer for continued carriage of White Knight stations, especially during this critical time preceding the country’s midterm elections,” Malara said.

“Nevertheless, our stations will continue to offer local political coverage on their websites,” Malara said, pointing to where DirecTV subscribers will be able to get news about the election — and about the carriage dispute.

Nextstar denied any responsibility for the blackout. “Despite DirecTV's allegations, Nexstar is not a party to these negotiations,“ Nexstar said. “These stations are owned by Mission Broadcasting, Inc., and White Knight Broadcasting, Inc. These stations are not owned by Nexstar.” ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.