Office Hours

Disgruntled Fox viewers who can't switch have just one option: over-the-air viewing

Now in the 21st day of a broadcast blackout, the opposing sides of KAYU-TV (Northwest Broadcasting, Inc.) and DIRECTV haven't said a word about how soon they expect a solution.

The battle is largely over the retransmission fee Northwest Broadcasting is seeking from DIRECTV. That fee is based on market estimates and the number of households that are gaining KAYU's broadcasts via DIRECTV. Each broadcaster negotiates those retransmission fees with satellite and cable companies.

The parties aren't talking openly about the proposed rates and counteroffers.

The issue affects thousands of TV viewers in Eastern Washington and North Idaho who use DIRECTV.

DIRECTV has told many of its more-distant viewers that they can watch an alternate satellite feed of Fox programs delivered from an Los Angeles station.

That only applies to residents who are deemed eligible because they can't receive an over-the-air signal from KAYU's Tower Mountain antenna, or one of its regional translators.

Robert Mercer, a DIRECTV spokesman, said the satellite company has already "turned on" the optional alternate feed for those subscribers who are affected by the blackout and who are eligible.  He declined to say how many homes that encompasses.

Meanwhile, any DIRECTV customer who lives close enough to be capable of watching KAYU with an antenna has two choices....only one of which is useful. (I guess there is the third choice: quitting DIRECTV and finding a new provider.)

If the customer wants to remain with DIRECTV, he or she can file a waiver request from KAYU to allow DIRECTV to provide the alternate feed from LA. But that's totally futile.

That has no chance of succeeding. Jon Rand, COO of Northwest Broadcasting, said the station's affiliate status with Fox Broadcast Network would be jeopardized by allowing those waivers.

So the only other choice is... connecting one's TV to an antenna and watching Fox broadcasts the old-fashioned way.  Good luck....

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.




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