Contract negotiations between AT&T/DirecTV and major conglomerates now has four Mobile-area stations dropped from the television carriers and has even drawn the attention of a U.S. senator.
WPMI-TV viewers have endured roughly a month and a half of having both it and sister station WJTC-TV purged from their AT&T/ DirecTV menus while contracts paying stations for their programming are hashed out. Last week they were joined by WKRG-TV and its sister station WFNA-TV in being dropped from AT&T/DirecTV service when Nexstar Media Group’s negotiations with the provider fell through.
The dispute is over how much AT&T will pay stations providing content on its system.
Right now two of the city’s three TV stations are unavailable to AT&T/DirecTV customers without use of an antenna. The situation has lo- cal broadcasters frustrated and viewers furious. It also caused U.S. Sen. Doug Jones to write Nexstar and AT&T to urge a quick end to the stalemate. He mentioned station blackouts in Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville and Mobile, saying he is “concerned about how this situation is affecting thousands of my constituents in Alabama.”
Jones also called on AT&T to carry the stations while things are hammered out.
“Therefore, I encourage your companies to negotiate a deal that treats both sides fairly in as timely a manner as possible. In the interim, I implore you to return these local channels to the airwaves. Do not use the people of Alabama as a bargaining chip,” he wrote.
WPMI’s General Manager Bobby Totsch has been answering questions about the situation for six weeks and said there’s nothing more he could add at this time, other than to say he thinks it will be rectified soon.
WKRG’s GM Jesse Grear encouraged viewers to get an antenna, or even consider leaving AT&T.
“Viewers can still get all of the over-the-air broadcast stations using an antenna that can be purchased at electronics stores or Walmart and Target to mention a few,” he said. “They can get our news on their mobile devices through the WKRG News app, and they could drop their DirecTV or AT&T U-verse service and pick up any of the streaming services including You-Tube TV, Hulu or Sling TV, which include all of the local stations at a fraction of the cost.”
Nexstar has been even more aggressive with its comments, and in a national press release blasted AT&T for California viewers missing vital news reports during recent earthquakes. They also accused AT&T of routinely using blackouts during contract negotiations.
AT&T representatives did not respond to questions from Lagniappe; however, a local resident did pass along a letter he received from the company offering its take on the dispute.
“When a programmer demands an excessive increase in fees, it is our responsibility to take a stand and protect our valued customers from unfair price increases that can impact their monthly bill,” Theresa Smith, from the office of AT&T’s president, wrote. Smith also pointed out AT&T/DirecTV’s right to change programming as part of its customer agreement.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).