If you've seen the screen above on your TV, you're not alone. DIRECT-TV, AT&T TV and U-Verse all lost channels recently due to disputes surrounding carriage fees with parent company Tegna Broadcasting.
Tegna pulled the signal at 7 p.m. on Dec. 1 after an existing retransmission consent agreement deal with AT&T expired. In the nationwide dispute, 60 local channels in 52 markets were lost, including Austin ABC affiliate KVUE.
Unfortunately, DIRECTV and AT&T U-Verse have not reached an agreement with TEGNA to keep our stations on the air. A… https://t.co/YuiVWt2ZRM— TEGNA (@TEGNA)1606868493.0
Missing stations include ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW and other local stations.
For customers experiencing a local channel blackout, we share your frustration. We asked @TEGNA to keep their stati… https://t.co/6ju30w3AOG— AT&T Help (@AT&T Help)1607394364.0
U.S. law grants Tegna exclusive control over which homes receive which channels, regardless of their cable provider. In a statement on its website, AT&T said it is common for broadcasting parent companies to blackout channels to make up lost revenue if a station loses viewers or sponsors.
"It's shameless profiteering at the public expense and worse during a global pandemic when medical news is at a premium and regular folks are struggling to make ends meet," AT&T said in the statement.
The American Television Alliance said this blackout occurred shortly after Tegna announced a record-breaking Q3, which they attributed in part to $116 million in political advertising revenue. Tegna's overall revenue was the highest it had ever been for a single quarter at $738 million, up 34%.
"TEGNA's demand for astronomical retransmission fees on the backs of American consumers is baffling," ATVA spokesperson Jessica Kendust said. "ATVA is disappointed that TEGNA is ignoring the public interest to weaponize blackouts as a negotiation bargaining chip."
Austinites aren't happy about it, and many are skeptical of who is really to blame in the dispute.
Hey @DIRECTV @ATT , for the $165/month I pay for the basic package, this is unacceptable. I’ve been contemplating c… https://t.co/iqOXuvzmue— Ryan Lanzen, PGA (@Ryan Lanzen, PGA)1606918865.0
According to AT&T, there are a few ways to manage until they reach an agreement with Tegna and channels are restored: Watch TV over-the-air or tell Congressional representatives to consider the "Modern Television Act," which would eliminate broadcast exclusivity.
"There are many local station managers who believe they can keep local legislators in check by limiting – or granting – greater access to local constituents like you through town halls and other public forums," AT&T said on its website.
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