Iowa lawmaker pressures satellite giant to carry local stations

Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) says Congress needs to ensure local TV is available to all satellite subscribers (Source: GrayDC).
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) says Congress needs to ensure local TV is available to all satellite subscribers (Source: GrayDC).(GRAYDC)
Published: Jul. 3, 2019 at 11:40 AM EDT
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In a handful of areas across the country, local TV stations aren’t available on DirecTV.

If you are a DirecTV viewer near Ottumwa, Iowa chances are you’ll only be able to watch KYOU’s stories on our website. That’s because the satellite giant pipes in CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX ‘local channels’ from New York City an LA.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a heck of a problem for local folks,” said Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa).

Loebsack argues subscribers deserve to get local weather forecasts, sports, and news like everyone else. He said technology no longer prevents DirecTV from beaming local stations directly into homes in remote areas.

Loebsack said Congress could force DirecTV to make a choice: carry local channels or drop the big networks altogether and lose out on top-rated shows and sporting events.

“I tell you, local TV, it’s absolutely critical,” said Loebsack, “we depend upon them to give us the news we need.”

DirecTV – owned by AT&T -- is the only satellite provider that doesn’t offer local tv stations in every market. They declined our interview request.

But, in a recent Congressional hearing, spokespeople for ATT&T argued the local stations want to charge them more than they’re willing to pay for the right to air their shows.

“We’ve explored looking into these 12 markets,” said Robert Thun, “it makes it very challenging for us to come to a market when we see what kind of prices are being extracted.

The package of satellite laws is reviewed by Congress every five years. National and local stations want to scrap it while DirecTV lobbyists want to make it permanent.

Lawmakers will need to decide what to do by the end of the year, and may consider broader changes to the laws governing the TV industry.

We reached out to Iowa’s senators to find out where they stand on the issue. So far, we have not heard back.

Copyright 2019 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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