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NAB: FCC Should Condition AT&T/DirecTV on TV Carriage

The National Association of Broadcasters is telling the FCC that if it decides to approve the AT&T/DirecTV merger, it should consider putting in a condition requiring DirecTV to offer local TV stations in all 210 markets.

Unlike cable operators, satellite operators do not have to provide TV stations wherever they provide service, though if they provide one, they must provide all.

NAB does not take a position on whether or not the deal should be approved — though it clearly has issues, particularly when the FCC has not loosened broadcast ownership restrictions. "Allowing unfettered consolidation among MVPDs while broadcasters continue to operate under decades-old rules would be arbitrary and capricious," it said.

But in its comments to the FCC filed Tuesday, NAB points out that DirecTV does not deliver local TV station signals to 13 TV markets and sees the deal as a way to rectify that.

AT&T and DirecTV announced as part of the deal that it would “expand and enhance high-speed broadband service to 15 million customer locations, mostly in underserved rural areas where AT&T does not provide high-speed broadband service,” NAB pointed out.

It suggested that a similar commitment to expanding so-called "local-into-local" TV service to all 210 TV markets in the same time frame would be an "ideal complement."

While not opposing the merger, NAB argued that it “will eliminate head-to-head competition and consumer choice” in markets were DirecTV and AT&T U-verse s overlap. “Grant of the (merger) applications would only increase MVPDs’ competitive position and bargaining strength vis-à-vis broadcasters,” the NAB said.