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  • NAB 9:15 am on September 24, 2019 Permalink  

    AT&T’s Misleading STELAR Campaign Does a Disservice 

    The below op-ed by NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith appeared in Broadcasting & Cable September 23.

    Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed a bill representing a temporary fix to copyright law to boost competition to the cable industry. The bill — now known as STELAR — provided for a “distant signal license” that allowed fledgling satellite TV companies to deliver ABC, CBS and NBC programming to households unserved by local TV stations.

    This legislation was never intended to be permanent — indeed, Congress set the bill to sunset after five years. However, because of lagging efforts by the satellite industry to carry local TV stations in all 210 television markets, Congress has continued to renew the distant signal license.

    Now, with the latest iteration of this bill set to expire at the end of the year, AT&T-owned DirecTV has launched a misleading on-air campaign warning viewers they are “at risk of losing your TV channels” unless the legislation is renewed by Congress. Viewers, including those in unaffected areas such as the Washington, D.C., market, have reported turning on their DirecTV systems and being “auto-tuned” to a screen directing them to contact Congress in support of STELAR’s renewal.

    These scare-tactic messages appearing on the TV screens of DirecTV customers are disingenuous at best and deceptive at worst. The truth is there is no reason for AT&T and DirecTV to grossly mislead most of its subscribers. That’s because the vast majority of DirecTV customers face no impact whatsoever from STELAR’s expiration.

    Today, the number of locally unserved households for the five major television networks has dropped to fewer than 500,000 (or less than 0.5% of total U.S. households). Indeed, the U.S. Copyright Office — the expert federal agency on copyright issues — supports expiration of STELAR, and rightly believes that a free-market solution will protect the dwindling number of unserved DirecTV homes from losing access to broadcast programming.

    For most of these relatively few remaining households, DirecTV can easily ensure that its viewers won’t lose access to broadcast network programming when STELAR expires. They can simply deliver on their decade-old pledge to carry all local TV stations in every television market. Today, that pledge remains unfulfilled in 12 U.S. TV markets where it refuses to invest in carriage of local TV stations. There is no longer any technical justification for this anti-consumer decision to deprive viewers of local news, weather and emergency information.

    It is long past time for DirecTV to fulfill its decade-old promise and provide every subscriber with their local TV station signals. That way, DirecTV viewers from Maine to Montana, and from Kentucky to Texas, will be able to watch local TV station affiliates rather than piped-in New York and Los Angeles programming from thousands of miles away.

    DirecTV is doing a serious disservice to both its customers and to Congress by running these misleading messages. We urge AT&T and DirecTV to reconsider airing alerts that only confuse their viewers, and to work with local broadcasters to ensure that all DirecTV customers receive their network programming from local TV affiliates.

  • Patrick McFadden 12:50 pm on June 24, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: DISH,   

    Dishceptive Advertising 

    It’s not at all uncommon for us to find ourselves marveling at DISH’s signature cocktail of chutzpah and hypocrisy. DISH is the common denominator in roughly three out of four service disruptions resulting from retransmission consent impasses, yet, when its customers lose access to programming they value because of DISH’s intransigence, DISH brazenly rolls out a carefully orchestrated campaign to blame broadcasters in an effort to secure regulatory favors from the FCC. In DISH’s latest broadcaster hold-up – this time with Tribune Broadcasting – it has taken things one step further and publicly announced it is suing its negotiating partner in federal district court. And, upon reading the complaint, we have to admit that DISH has really outdone itself this time.

    DISH’s suit concerns advertisements and websites Tribune has used to educate viewers as to why they can’t view Tribune’s programming on DISH. DISH accuses Tribune of tarnishing and diluting the value of DISH’s trademarks by using words like “dishgusting” and “dishturbing” to describe DISH’s conduct. So, from the outset, it’s clear that DISH’s suit is a very serious, credible attempt to enforce its rights and is totally worth a court’s time (and absolutely should not have been filed in Comic Sans font).

    DISH is also outraged that Tribune would suggest that DISH customers who are frustrated by their inability to receive Tribune programming consider switching to another service provider. According to DISH, urging customers to switch service providers causes real harm because, when customers do switch, DISH cannot get them back. Given how sensitive the company appears to be about dishparagement, someone should alert DISH that it just admitted that customers who try another service provider are a bit like Taylor Swift – they are never, ever, ever getting back together with DISH.

    Besides, isn’t trying to get customers to choose your service offerings instead of your competitors’ sort of the whole point of advertising? DISH itself uses advertising to try to convince customers of other service providers – including DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Verizon – to switch to DISH. The complaint seems dishingenuous, at best.

    But it’s not just that customers may leave. DISH is also extremely frustrated that customers call DISH to complain, or get more information. DISH is clearly dishappointed at the prospect of having to spend more time talking to dishgruntled customers who are frustrated by the dishruption in their service.

    DISH’s super serious, thoughtful complaint that you definitely should not take lightly or make fun of in any way also accuses Tribune of making dishceptive claims by asserting that customers gave DISH the lowest rating for value in a 2015 customer service survey. According to DISH, it didn’t really finish last for value in that survey; rather, the company finished tied for last. In effect, DISH is claiming that Tribune is off base because even though DISH received the lowest rating, it shared that honor with other companies. Put differently, DISH’s lawsuit is premised in part on the notion that, while its customers think DISH provides terrible value, they don’t think it provides uniquely terrible value. It’s more a run of the mill terrible value. This is such an important dishtinction that DISH adds in a footnote that the company again finished tied for last for value in a 2016 survey. Just so everyone knows this wasn’t an anomaly.

    At bottom, of course, this suit is nothing more than a dishtraction. DISH’s subscribers currently can’t access programming they value through DISH because DISH would rather pay below-market rates for programming. That’s what this dishpute boils down to. If the company really wanted to provide a dishincentive for customers to leave, it might consider engineering fewer service dishruptions that deprive customers of their desired programming.

  • Dennis Wharton 11:00 am on October 4, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: 1992 Cable Act, broadcast ratings, , cable rates, Cablevision, EchoStar, , SNL Kagan, Time Warner, Verizon FiOS   

    Eight unassailable facts regarding retransmission consent 

    With the pay-TV industry’s continued effort to have Congress or the Federal Communications Commission change the retransmission consent process, here is a quick refresher with eight unassailable facts regarding the carriage negotiation process.

    (More …)

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