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HITN Facing the Loss of DirecTV Carriage

DirecTV plans to drop the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, a Spanish-language public-interest channel, at the end of June, the satellite provider said.

DirecTV disclosed plans to replace HITN with another Spanish-language service in a 23-page filing last week to the Federal Communications Commission, regarding Liberty Media's proposed $11 billion acquisition of News Corp.'s 38.4% stake in the nation's largest satellite provider. (For more, see Policy, page 26.)

DirecTV has carried HITN as part of its public-interest obligation as a satellite provider, under federal law, to set aside 4% of its channel capacity exclusively for non-commercial programming of an educational or informational nature.

HITN is a non-profit public-interest educational network offered in English- and Spanish-language DirecTV packages.

DirecTV officials declined to comment last week, beyond their FCC filing.

HITN president Jose Luis Rodriguez released a statement, saying in part: “While the timing of their renewal notice is troubling, we continue to have discussions with DirecTV related to our carriage agreement, which we hope are productive. The larger issue at stake here is whether independent, unaffiliated minority controlled networks have a place in a consolidated media environment. If not, there is no such thing as diversity; it would be just an illusion.”

“The FCC should take strong action to ensure that independent voices are not squeezed out of the media landscape,” HITN told the FCC in an eight-page filing regarding the DirecTV sale.

The satellite provider told the FCC it “intends to replace HITN with alternative Spanish-language noncommercial programming that DirecTV believes would be of greater interest to its subscribers.”

DirecTV disclosed negotiations with Spanish-language multicast channel V-me TV. Educational Broadcasting Corp., which holds the license for public broadcaster WNET in New York, is a minority investor.

DirecTV said V-me “offers a 24-hour schedule of Spanish-language programming similar in genre and comparable in quality to the Educational Broadcasting Corp.'s English-language service.”

DirecTV added HITN “provides no reason to suspect that the proposed [Liberty] transaction will have any effect whatsoever on DirecTV's future compliance with its noncommercial programming carriage obligations.”

The satellite provider said that in exercising its discretion under the law to select among qualified public-interest programmers, “DirecTV makes every effort to choose the programming that it believes will make its overall service as attractive and compelling for viewers as possible.”