SHAHEEN: TV CHANNEL CONTRACT DISPUTE MUST END BEFORE SUPER BOWL

January 25, 2012

(Washington, D.C.) – With the New England Patriots scheduled to play in the Super Bowl just 11 days from now, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step in and help resolve a TV contract dispute that could leave thousands of New Hampshire satellite TV subscribers with no way to watch the big game.

Shaheen urged FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to help broker an agreement between DirecTV and Sunbeam Television Corporation, which owns the local NBC affiliate in Boston.  The provider and network have failed to renegotiate their contract, and as a result NBC has been “blacked out” for more than 30,000 DirecTV customers in Southern New Hampshire since January 14.

NBC is set to broadcast the Super Bowl on February 5. 

“Through no fault of their own, subscribers have become bargaining chips in these negotiations and are being denied access to the TV programming they’ve paid to receive,” Shaheen said.  “Blacking out the Super Bowl would be a disservice not only to Patriots fans, but also to sports bars and restaurants across Southern New Hampshire that are counting on the game for much-needed revenue.  The blackout is already more than a week old and must end immediately.”

The full text of Shaheen’s letter to Genachowski is below.

January 25, 2012

The Honorable Julius Genachowski

Federal Communications Commission

445 12 Street, SW

Room 8B201

Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski,

I have heard from many constituents affected by the ongoing dispute between DirecTV and Sunbeam Television Corporation regarding the amount the satellite provider must pay to continue transmitting broadcast networks.  I write to urge you to help bring these parties to a prompt, equitable resolution that restores service to their customers.

As you know, negotiations between Sunbeam and DirectTV have reached an impasse, and Sunbeam has “blacked out” reception to NBC and the CW Network in the Greater Boston metropolitan area.  There are currently 200,000 DirectTV customers affected, including more than 30,000 New Hampshire residents who subscribe to the satellite provider. 

Through no fault of their own, paying subscribers have become bargaining chips in these negotiations and are being denied access to local news, TV shows, sporting events and other valuable programming.  While I understand these negotiations are private, I ask that you use all tools at your disposal to help mediate this dispute.  It is essential for consumers in New Hampshire that the two parties reach an accord immediately.

If the dispute is not resolved in the coming days, thousands of New Hampshire sports fans will be unable to watch the New England Patriots compete in the Super Bowl.  This is unfair not only to individual viewers but to business establishments across the state.  The restaurants and sports bars that subscribe to these local stations stand to lose much-needed revenue.  During this time of economic recovery, the last thing these small businesses need is an empty house on game day.

I urge you to help resolve this matter quickly and fairly. Thank you for your attention to this time-sensitive issue.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

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