WAPA Puerto Rico off DirecTV

WAPA TV Puerto Rico is off DirecTV in a retransmission consent dispute.

According to the station, the channel went off at midnight May 4 after a renewal could not be struck.

"In the midst of a rebuilding effort after Hurricane Maria, with a constant flow of critical news and information, it’s more important than ever that viewers have access to WAPA’s more than 40 hours a week of live local news produced by the #1 news team on the island," the station said. 

WAPA's owners, Hemisphere Media Group, say the Spanish-language station is the ratings leader by a mile, but that DirecTV is paying more for "lightly-viewerd networks" than it is asking. It singles out Turner networks by name as among those getting more. AT&T and DirectTV are currently trying to convince the government they won't favor those Turner nets if they are allowed to merge with Turner parent Time Warner.

"We are hopeful DIRECTV will recognize the value of WAPA’s networks and the importance of continuing to deliver the best programming to Puerto Ricans on the island," Hemisphere said.

“It’s very disappointing that DIRECTV doesn’t see the value in WAPA, which has been the network Puerto Ricans turn to for their news and entertainment for nearly 65 years,” said Alan J. Sokol, president of Hemisphere.

WAPA TV remains available over the air, as well as on Dish, Liberty, Claro and Naicom.

"We want to get WAPA and WAPA 2 Deportes back into customers’ local lineups in Puerto Rico as soon as possible, but by law their owner Hemisphere Media has exclusive control over that," said AT&T in a statement. "WAPA America remains available throughout the rest of the U.S. 

"We share our local Puerto Rico customers’ frustration, as Hemisphere is blocking WAPA and WAPA 2 Deportes there until it receives nearly double its current fees. We continue to ask Hemisphere to allow these customers to watch while we work this matter out privately. We need Hemisphere’s permission to bring WAPA and WAPA 2 Deportes back. We will even agree to pay Hemisphere any new rates we eventually agree upon during whatever time it takes to work out our new agreement," which is called a true-up.

"We strive to deliver the content our customers want at a value they can also support," AT&T said. "DIRECTV and U-verse each provide 65 Spanish-language channels, including many that originate in Puerto Rico and other major Hispanic homelands."  

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.