[UPDATED] Northwest Broadcasting stations WICZ-WBPN Binghamton (N.Y.) , KMVU Medford (Ore.), KFFX Yakima and KAYU Spokane went dark for DirecTV subscribers as the new year rolled in, as a result of a retransmission consent clash.
The satellite provider says it asked Northwest to keep the channels up while negotiations continued or bring the issue to arbitration to avoid programming disruptions, but says "Northwest refused and demanded the channels be taken down."
"For local broadcast station owners to brazenly hold viewers hostage in an attempt to extort fees that are astronomically higher than what we pay other local broadcasters is flat out wrong," said DirecTV Chairman/CEO/President Mike White. "We hope that Northwest will ultimately come to the table in good faith to discuss reasonable terms and fees and they will quickly restore programming to our customers."
Northwest President/CEO Brian Brady was in his office over the weekend, explaining the situation to irate viewers on the phone. He charges DirecTV with trying to squeeze a small, privately owned company.
"Unfortunately DIRECTV left us no choice but to pull our stations," said Brady.
KAYU and Time Warner Cable had a long standoff in 2007 over retrans, with KAYU going dark for TWC subscribers for several months.
Brady is also chairman of the Fox affiliates board. He said Northwest had negotiated with DirecTV in good faith for three months.
"Northwest values its viewers and the last thing we want is to have them be in the middle of this contract negotiation," said Brady. "In order for us to continue in the broadcast business we cannot allow Direct TV and companies like them to take advantage of their size and political muscle to bully us into subsidizing their businesses."
Hearst TV and DirecTV reached a retrans pact just before the year concluded.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.