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Nebraska Legislators Push AT&T for Local TV Station Carriage

Invoking the pandemic, a bipartisan Nebraska congressional delegation has called on AT&T and DirecTV to deliver local broadcast stations in North Platte and Scottsbluff, two markets where AT&T has chosen not to deliver those local stations. 

That came in a letter to AT&T from Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)  

“It is imperative that your subscribers located in rural markets, where there is an increased reliance on satellite services, can receive local news, weather reports, and emergency alerts,” the letter reads. “Given the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency, the availability of local broadcast programming is more important now than ever. All Nebraska residents, no matter their location, need to be able to stay informed on statewide and local efforts to combat the pandemic.” 

Unlike cable operators, satellite operators have no must-carry requirement, though if they carry any local stations they must carry them all. AT&T has chosen not to deliver stations in a dozen of the smallest markets via DirecTV, instead importing distant network signals and offering an over-the-air option for local stations alongside its satellite service. 

The issue is in the spotlight because the Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act, which passed late last year, prevents AT&T from importing those distant signals--including to long-haul truckers and RVers--after May 31 unless it has struck individual deals for those distant signals. The bill ended the blanket carriage license for those signals unless AT&T delivers local signals in those dozen remaining markets, in which case the blanket distant-signal license is preserved.   

“It is imperative that your subscribers located in rural markets, where there is an increased reliance on satellite services, can receive local news, weather reports, and emergency alerts,” the legislators said. “Given the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency, the availability of local broadcast programming is more important now than ever."

“We are currently in discussions with each of the major broadcast networks to obtain access to their national programming for many for these impacted customers," said AT&T. "Local stations have exclusive control over who can offer their content within their communities. Our goal is to continue providing network content to as many homes as possible and impacted customers are eligible for a credit.”