I’ve heard my local station claim DIRECTV refuses to pay “fair value” for its local stations. Is that true?

DIRECTV is always willing to pay “fair” market value to allow our customers the convenience of seeing local broadcast stations in their DIRECTV lineup, but DIRECTV does not believe “fair value” includes obligating every family to cover nearly $4 billion for shows they can otherwise receive for free over the air and all sorts of other options.

If a blackout occurs, how long will I be without my favorite shows?

Nine times out of ten, stations don’t follow through on their blackout threats. And when they do, they typically last just days or even a few hours. If you’re concerned about losing your broadcast networks, many of their most popular shows are available on ABC.com, CBS.com, Fox.com and NBC.com, as well as on Hulu.com. And you can always use a small, inexpensive indoor digital antenna as insurance to put the threat of blackouts behind you for good.

How do I get a digital antenna?

Today’s digital antennas are inexpensive, convenient and available in most electronics stores: Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Amazon and many, many others. They’re often smaller than a piece of paper and some are even transparent. All you do is connect it to your TV’s input, tune the channel of the specific local station you want to receive, and that’s it.

Will I get a clear signal if I buy an over-the-air antenna?

Local broadcast stations must deliver a strong enough digital signal, so everyone living within their community should be able to receive it clearly. However, any obstructions between your home and the station transmitter can limit your reception. An important value that DIRECTV offers to local stations is the ability to extend the reach of their signal well beyond their transmitters’ limits.

Why can’t DIRECTV bring in a station from another city to replace the one I lost?

In general, federal copyright laws prevent us from importing other local stations. Some customers are eligible to receive distant network signals from New York or Los Angeles if they live outside the service area of their local station and can’t receive a signal. If your station is blacked out, you can tune to channels 390-399 to see if the distant signal appears. If it’s not there, you are not eligible for the service, but it’s possible you could receive a good over-the-air picture.

How does Distant Network Signals (DNS) qualification work exactly?

Federal law gives broadcast companies the exclusive rights to distribute local stations to the public. That means we cannot by law bring another ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, or NBC station into a city unless the station that’s licensed to serve that community will allow it—and they never do in these contract disputes. Since the station owner holds the broadcasting rights for its channels, they are solely responsible for whether they stay or go in our programming line-up. They will take them away so you get upset enough to surrender to whatever pricing demands they have. We continue to argue to the FCC and Washington that these sorts of situations are exactly why they need to change the rules.

If so many disputes involve local broadcast stations, why don’t you just deal with ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC instead?

FCC rules demand that we negotiate separately with the owners of thousands of different local stations that have exclusive rights to bring ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC’s programs into their community. But that system is breaking down too. As station fees soar from $1 billion to $3.6 billion over the next five years, broadcast networks are taking more of that money from their affiliates, forcing local stations to cut back their investments in local news and other community service they are licensed to provide.

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