Maine senators pressuring satellite giant to carry local stations

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- In a handful of areas across the country local TV stations aren’t available on DirecTV. Maine’s lawmakers say there’s a simple, uniquely Washington solution.

Maine senators push to get local channels on DirecTV. (Source: Gray DC)

If you are a DirecTV viewer in Maine’s Aroostock County, chances are you’ll only be able to watch WAGM’s stories on its website. That’s because the satellite giant pipes in CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX ‘local channels’ from New York City.

Maine’s senators said there’s an easy fix. “Asking Congress to not do something may be a winning strategy,” said Angus King (I-ME). He suggests allowing a package of TV laws governing satellite services to expire. That would leave DirecTV with a decision: either carry the local channels or drop the big networks altogether and lose out on top-rated shows and sporting events.

Over the years, Maine’s senators did vote for the provisions allowing satellite providers to bring big city signals into rural areas. But now, King and Collins said technology has improved and the exception is no longer necessary. They also said locals deserve to get local weather forecasts, sports coverage, and news like everyone else. “That local coverage really helps to build a sense of community,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

DirecTV is the only satellite provider that doesn’t already offer local TV stations in every market. In response to our interview request, a spokesperson for DirecTV’s parent company AT&T offered this statement:
“In all 12 markets the broadcasters free over the air signal is available and can be combined with DIRECTV service seamlessly. The law only allows customers to receive distant signals if they cannot get an over the air signal with an antenna from broadcasters. Typically, a small percentage of any TV market.”

The package of satellite laws is reviewed by Congress every five years – and passed unanimously in 2014. While Maine’s Senators hope to convince their colleagues to let it expire this time, DirecTV lobbyists are pushing to make it permanent.

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