DirecTV Probed on Access to TV Station Signals

Some legislators took the opportunity of DirecTV Chairman Michael White's appearance at House antitrust subcommittee hearing this week to ask about their constituents’ access to local signals.

At a House antitrust subcommittee hearing on the AT&T/DirecTV deal, parent Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) spent some time probing White on why DirecTV does not provide the local ABC affiliate in Harrisonburg, Va., to his constituents despite being allowed to do so legally. Instead they have to get the ABC affiliate from Washington, he pointed out, which is hours away. He asked White whether he would commit to resolving the issue.

White conceded DirecTV had "some gaps" in its local coverage, but was working on them, including by launching two new satellites within the next year, and plans for closing one of those Virginia gaps — in Charlottesville — later this year. He said he would be happy to work with the chairman on the issue of orphan counties so long as DirecTV did not have to double pay retrans and its spot beams could reach the relevant rural areas.

Goodlatte did not press it, but pointed out that he had heard from others in Congress about it.

White heard from one of those others in Congress about it, too, not long after.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), said the he had talked with DirecTV about the orphan counties issue, and would continue to "harp on it." He said people who knew him knew that when he got hold of an issue, he did not let it go, and this was one he was not going to let go of.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.