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Valley News Dispatch

WTAE off of DirecTV's lineup in pay dispute

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, 9:33 p.m.

DirecTV subscribers in the Pittsburgh area can't watch WTAE programs on their service because of a contract dispute between the satellite provider and Hearst Television, which owns the ABC affiliate.

According to a statement from Hearst, the sides reached an impasse on Saturday in their talks to renew an agreement allowing Hearst's broadcast stations to be carried by DirecTV.

A WTAE representative could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

DirecTV must have Hearst's permission to provide WTAE or any of Hearst's other broadcast stations. Hearst Television owns and operates local television and radio stations serving 26 media markets across 39 states.

In a message to customers, DirecTV says Hearst wants a “significant increase” in fees.

“We asked Hearst Television to allow our customers to keep watching WTAE while we try to finalize this behind-the-scenes business agreement, but they refused,” DirecTV says in the message.

DirecTV says it can have WTAE back into homes “within moments” of Hearst granting permission.

“If Hearst has a true sense of urgency, they will grant us permission to put WTAE back into your lineup, which is what both our Pittsburgh customers and we want,” DirecTV said.

Hearst says while its broadcast stations' over-the-air signals are free to all viewers, “we expect fair compensation from any business that seeks to profit from our service and valuable programming.”

Hearst claims its efforts to reach an agreement with DirecTV have been “thwarted by what appears to be a strategy of unrealistic proposals and outright delay.” Hearst accuses DirecTV of engaging in “unfair tactics” and making “unreasonable demands.”

“Hearst Television will continue its good faith efforts to reach a deal that is fair for our viewers and recognizes the value that our stations have invested into local news and programming,” the company said.

DirecTV says the FCC would prevent it from offering another ABC station in place of WTAE.

Hearst and DirecTV advise customers to turn to WTAE's over-the-air digital signal to view the station while it's blacked out on DirecTV, by using the internal tuners in their digital televisions or a digital antenna.

ABC programming can also be found online, and through the use of apps on devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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