Montana senator pressures satellite giant to carry local stations

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - In a handful of areas across the country, local TV stations aren’t available on DirecTV.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) argues there's no reason why DirecTV can't reach a deal to provide local stations to viewers in Glendive and Helena. (Source: Gray DC)

If you are a DirecTV viewer near Glendive, Montana chances are you’ll only be able to watch KFYR’s stories on our website. That’s because the satellite giant pipes in CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX ‘local channels’ from Los Angeles.

“A signal from somewhere else doesn’t do me any good at all. I need those local broadcasts,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana).

Tester argues Montana subscribers deserve to get local weather forecasts, sports, and news like everyone else. He said Congress could force DirecTV to make a choice: carry local channels or drop the big networks altogether and lose out on top-rated shows and sporting events. Tester said good faith negotiations will lead to deals being struck.

“Just give them the signal, go negotiate with Glendive, go negotiate with the stations in Helena,” he said, “and give the folks the local signal they deserve.”

DirecTV – owned by AT&T -- is the only satellite provider that doesn’t offer local tv stations in every market. Company spokespeople declined our interview request.

But in a recent Senate hearing, spokespeople for AT&T contended it’s small tv stations letting viewers down, with inadequate antennae coverage and costly demands for airing their content. “The broadcasters come to us with a gun to our head telling us you are going to take this price,” said Robert Thun.

The package of satellite laws is reviewed by Congress every five years. National and local stations want to scrap it while DirecTV lobbyists want to make it permanent. Lawmakers who want to substantially change the satellite television landscape don’t have much time left to do so.

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