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DIRECTV Has Had Enough of Fee Fights!
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (December 26, 2012) -- DIRECTV apparently has had enough with broadcasters threatening to drop their local stations due to disagreements over carriage fees. The satcaster is urging its subscribers to get off-air antennas to receive the local signals so they will no longer have to worry about blackout threats.

The company has been engaged in several frustrating fee fights this year, including a impasse with Viacom that forced it to take 26 channels off the air for nine days until a new agreement was reached. But DIRECTV's latest programming dispute with broadcaster Morgan Murphy Media may be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Morgan Murphy, a television chain based in Madison, Wisconsin, owns four local stations in Wisconsin, including the CBS affiliate in Madison and the CBS station in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and four stations in Washington state, including three ABC affiliates (Spokane, Kennewick, Yakima.)

According to DIRECTVPromise.com, the satcaster's specially created site for fee fights, Morgan Murphy has been alerting DIRECTV subscribers in those markets that they could lose their local channels at the end of the year unless a new deal is reached. That statement is true for four of the channels, DIRECTV says. But the satcaster adds that its pacts with the Madison and Yakima stations won't expire for a full year.

Morgan Murphy is even threatening viewers in Madison, Wisc. and Tri-Cities of Yakima-Pasco-Richland, Wash. when those station agreements don’t even expire for another year," DIRECTV says at its site.

Obviously frustrated over the situation, DIRECTVPromise.com then says it has a "simple solution" to this fee fight and all others: Get an antenna.

e have a simple solution for customers to will help stop these unnecessary and antagonizing tactics once and for all: an inexpensive digital antenna that we will explain how to use on directvpromise.com," DIRECTV states. "Most customers can get great over the air reception from their local stations, it’s free and they no longer have to worry about any station owner’s threats or blackouts anymore.

DIRECTV adds: "Here we go again.
Morgan Murphy is just one more station owner willing to join in on the record-breaking 84 station-led blackouts this year. The game is the same – hold viewers’ loyalties against them by denying access to programs unless everyone agrees to pay more – in this case nearly three times as much — just to receive the same programs."

DIRECTV's call for subscribers to get an antenna is unusual because the satcaster actually sells its own package of local channels for a monthly fee. By saying subscribers should get an antenna, the company is effectively saying it doesn't care if its customers subscribe to its local channel package anymore; better they get an antenna so DIRECTV and its customers don't have to experience another frustrating fee fight.

Of course, it's too early to say that DIRECTV will take this stance in all future fee fights. Many subscribers can't get their local channels with an antenna for a variety of reasons, including excessive distance from the channels' signal towers. But DIRECTV has clearly had enough with fee fights and apparently is even willing to forego some revenue to stop them.

As for Morgan Murphy Media, the broadcaster has DIRECTV alerts up at its stations' web sites saying the satcaster's subscribers could soon lose their channels. It remains to be seen if the two companies can reach a deal by December 31 -- and allow DIRECTV customers to keep their antenna purchases on hold.

Note: DIRECTV also has a year-end impasse with Capitol Broadcasting, which could cost it five stations in North Carolina unless a new pact is reached.

What do you think? Offer your comments below!

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