DirecTV tries to draw FCC into Tribune retrans dispute


Direct TVAfter Tribune Broadcasting stations in 19 markets were removed from its local-to-local satellite service over the weekend DirecTV on Monday (4/2) filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. DirecTV claims Tribune has refused to bargain on retrans in good faith – and blames the holders of the debt of Tribune Company, which remains in Chapter 11 reorganization.

“In another case of runaway Wall Street greed, some of America’s wealthiest hedge funds and investment banks, including Oaktree Partners, Angelo Gordon, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, forced Tribune’s senior management to renege on an agreement that would have kept DirecTV customers connected to their local programming. Their actions represent a brazen attempt to extract yet another bailout on the backs of innocent viewers,” the satellite MVPD said in a statement.

The complaint claims that DirecTV and Tribune had come to terms on a new retransmission consent agreement on March 29th – something Tribune management has denied. “However, late the following day, Tribune executives rescinded the agreement, acknowledging bankrupt Tribune’s hedge fund and investment bank creditors overruled senior management, exercising authority over Tribune’s broadcast licenses and operations the FCC has yet to grant,” the complaint charged.

What does DirecTV want the FCC to do? It is seeking “an immediate intervention and expedited ruling against Tribune for failing to negotiate in good faith and bringing into question whether broadcast licenses have been prematurely, and inappropriately, transferred to bankruptcy creditors.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Anyone can send a complaint to the FCC about anything, but that doesn’t mean much. The Commission has repeatedly refused to get involved in retrans disputes and left the business negotiations to the parties involved.