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Mass. Appeal: Legislators Push Sunbeam and DirecTV to Resolve Dispute

Ten members of Massachusetts congressional delegation including Reps. Ed Markey, James McGovern and Barney Frank have collectively asked Sunbeam and DirecTV to come to retrans terms ASAP in hopes of avoiding a Super Bowl blackout of the New England Patriots on the satellite network in greater Boston, and also want the FCC to step in and get the parties together.

In a letter to Sunbeam and DirecTV execs, 10 legislators said they were concerned about the impact of the impasse on 200,000 DirecTV subs in the Boston area. They encouraged the parties to negotiate in good faith and, as a backstop, said they were requesting the FCC to bring the parties together so the negotiations can be concluded "in an equitable and expeditions manner."

That is in addition to separate letters sent by Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown.

In his letter, Brown said he was concerned about his constituents being leverage in a business negotiation. "It is outrageous that subscribers would pay hundreds of dollars a year for service and not get to watch the Super Bowl, the biggest television event of the year," he wrote. He also asked the parties to restore WHDH and WLVI, both Boston stations, to DirecTV while they continued to negotiate.

Kerry pointed out in his letter that it was the third year in a row he has contacted the FCC about a retrans dispute, and urged it to complete its pending rulemaking on retrans reform.

The FCC has proposed clarifying good faith bargaining in retrans disputes, and suggested it could also waive exclusivity rules and allow cable operators to negotiate with nearby stations, but has yet to take any action.