Congress to DirecTV: Every DMA Needs Their Local TV


AT&T’s DirecTV direct broadcast satellite service promised more than a decade ago to carry all of the local TV station in each of the nation’s 210 Designated Market Areas.

However, it still hasn’t fulfilled this pledge, and Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester — along with three other members of Congress — have queried the DBS provider asking when they plan to finally act, and why they haven’t yet.

The letter, sent Thursday by Tester and co-signed by fellow Senators Michael Enzi, John Barrasso, Michael Bennet, to Dallas-based AT&T CEO John Donovan, notes that DirecTV delivers locally broadcast networks to local markets in 198 of America’s 210 media markets.

Twelve of the smallest markets are not on this list:

  • Alpena, Michigan
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • Caspar-Riverton, Wyoming
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming/Scottsbluff, Nebraska
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Helena, Montana
  • North Platte, Nebraska
  • Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Preque Isle, Maine
  • San Angelo, Texas
  • Victoria, Texas
  • Glendive, Montana


“Despite technological advances that allow satellite companies to serve local channels into local markets in any location, the customers in these 12 media markets still receive limited or no access to locally broadcast network stations through their subscriptions,” the Senators state.

Instead, these subscribers receive distant signals from places like New York and Los Angeles instead of a nearby media market.

Distant signal provisions in current law allows this. However, the legislators are puzzled as to why DirecTV could not work to minimize the distance and provide local news from within the subscriber’s region.

“In both of these circumstances, rural consumers are shortchanged based on where they live,” they write to Donovan. “Without access to local broadcasting, your subscribers in these situations miss vital information on public safety, weather, elections, and opportunities for community engagement. This is unacceptable and a practice that must be ended as we work to close the digital divide.”

Unlike DirecTV, rival DISH Network carries all the local TV stations in all 210 TV markets in America – except for those owned by Univision Communications or those carrying Univision or UniMás network programming, owing to a lengthy battle over retransmission fees.


The NAB’s STELAR Death Wish

“Congress never intended for satellite TV legislation that permits ‘unserved homes’ to import distant network TV signals to live in perpetuity,” the NAB argues. That language paints a clear picture of how broadcast media’s chief Capitol Hill lobbying group feels about the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. The NAB wants it to die.