NAB Calls AT&T STELAR Message ‘Misleading’

The association’s CEO Gordon Smith says: “DirecTV is doing a serious disservice to both its customers and to Congress by running these misleading messages. We urge you to reconsider … and to work with local broadcasters to ensure that all DirecTV customers receive their network programming from local TV affiliates.”

NAB President Grodon Smith today criticized an AT&T ad campaign warning viewers of AT&T’s DirecTV that they are “at risk of losing your TV channels” unless the STELAR legislation is renewed by Congress. The satellite license law authorizes satellite compulsory distant signal licenses and includes requiring the FCC to enforce good faith negotiations in retrans disputes and a prohibition on coordinated retrans negotiations among noncommonly owned TV stations in a market from the top four to all stations.

In his letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Smith said: These “auto-tuned” scare tactic messages appearing on TV screens of DirecTV customers are disingenuous  at best, and deceptive  at worst.

“As DirecTV well knows, the STELAR bill passed by Congress nearly 30 years ago was never intended to be permanent. Instead, the bill represented a temporary  fix to copyright law to boost competition to cable by allowing fledgling satellite TV companies to deliver ABC, CBS and NBC programming to households  unserved  by local TV stations.

“Today, because of Congress’s wise decision to establish a compulsory copyright license which better enables DirecTV to carry local TV affiliates  of ABC, CBS,   NBC, and Fox, rather than distant signals, the number of locally unserved households for these networks has dropped to less than 500,000 (or less than 0.5 percent of total U.S. households). With this fraction of households that STELAR actually impacts plummeting — precisely why the U.S. Copyright Office (the expert federal agency on copyright issues) supports expiration of STELAR this year — you are sadly misleading a significant majority of your subscribers, who face no impact whatsoever.

“What’s more, for most of these relatively few remaining households, DirecTV can easily ensure that your viewers won’t lose access to broadcast network programming when STELAR expires. The solution: Simply fulfill your company’s decade-old promise to carry local TV station signals in all 210 U.S. TV markets. That way, DirecTV viewers from Maine to Montana, and from Kentucky to Texas,  will be able to watch local TV station affiliates rather than piped-in New York and Los Angeles  programming  from thousands  of miles away.”

Smith concluded: “DirecTV is doing a serious disservice to both its customers and to Congress by running these misleading messages. We urge you to reconsider airing alerts that only confuse your viewers, and to work with local broadcasters to ensure that all DirecTV customers receive their network programming from local TV affiliates.”

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