Eastern Iowa DirecTV Customers May Lose CBS, Fox on March 1

By Jeff Raasch, Reporter

A DirecTV satellite dish is shown at a home in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - March Madness might take on a whole new meaning if a dispute between a television broadcasting company and a satellite provider continues into next month.

Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which includes KGAN and KFXA in Cedar Rapids, informed viewers Monday that DirecTV is not expected to carry its stations after the existing retransmission contract expires at 2:01 a.m. CST on March 1.

If no agreement is reached, that could prevent viewers from viewing NCAA basketball tournament games, which start March 21, on KGAN and other CBS affiliates in the Sinclair Group.

According to a statement posted on Sinclair’s website, negotiations have been ongoing between the two sides, but “at this time it does not appear that these efforts will be successful.” The company reminded viewers about other ways to receive their stations.

El Segundo, Calif.-headquartered DirecTV accused Sinclair of trying to scare viewers.

“These are the same unnecessary threats, posing as warnings, that Sinclair has made to frighten customers of other pay TV providers,” DirecTV said in its statement. “We will compensate Sinclair fairly, but our customers should not be forced to pay more than twice as much for the same programs that remain available completely free of charge over the air and online.”

Last August, Sinclair threatened to pull its stations off Dish Network. An agreement was reached in time to avoid a blackout.

Contract disputes between TV stations and cable and satellite TV providers have become more common in recent years. According to the American Television Alliance, there were 91 retransmission blackouts in 2012, up 78 percent from the previous year.

The coalition has lobbied Congress to change retransmission rules, which were adopted in 1992.

Most recently in Eastern Iowa, a retransmission agreement between KCRG-TV9 and Dish Network expired Dec. 18, leading to a 38-day blackout.

In the DirecTV statement, it said customers should be assured that neither DirecTV nor Sinclair “has any intention of allowing the disruption of their local stations.”

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