Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

How many folks were affected by the KAYU-DISH snafu? About 103,000

We wondered how many subcribers might have been affected by the blackout created by the KAYU, DISH Network snafu that was settled over the weekend.

Roughly 103,000 is the number we came up with, thanks to the folks at SNL Kagan, a communications and broadcast media information aggregator. The number is certainly a bit lower than that, as some DISH subscribers likely had other options (such as a cable connection or a digital antenna to get signals).

Based on third quarter 2012 numbers, DISH had 103,429 subscribers in the Spokane TV market.

That's up from 3Q 2010, again using numbers provided by SNL Kagan. Here's the three-way subscriber numbers:

                     2010                                        2012 (both measured in 3Q)

Comcast      100,000                                               106,311

DirecTV         69,000                                                 76,478

DISH            102,000                                              103,429

Comcast's numbers are entirely in the Spokane metro area. DirecTV and DISH subscribers extend from North Idaho all the way over to central Washington.

Also worth noting is that both DirecTV and DISH ran into problems over retrans fees with Northwest Broadcasting, which runs KAYU.  The important thing is that there are no retrans fees paid by cable for its ability to carry local station signals.

The reason is that the cable giants, like Comcast, give local stations access to some channels at little or no coast, in lieu of retrans fees. Hence, you never see the locals like NW Broadcasting locked in battles over money with Comcast.


Why it took nine weeks for KAYU to get back on DirecTV’s satellite feed

So what really kept the Spokane Fox Affiliate off DirecTV for about nine weeks?
One story running today in the SR said it came down to a contractual dispute over money.

Jon Rand, an executive with Northwest Broadcasting, parent firm of KAYU-Fox 28, said that the real reason wasn't the payment plan  — AKA the carriage fee, which is paid to the station based on some specific amount per subscriber in the market.

The real issue was the aggressive effort, he said, by DirecTV to establish a "most favored nation" clause in their contract. We'll get to that in a minute. Here's the official statement by KAYU:

It is with great excitement that FOX 28 announces they have reached an agreement with DIRECTV!

As of 5 p.m. Oct. 26,  FOX 28 returned to the DIRECTV line-up.  DIRECTV viewers are now able to watch their favorite FOX 28 programming including Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, the X Factor and the World Series.

“We are thrilled to be able to return FOX 28 programming to the DIRECTV schedule and are very grateful to our viewers for their patience and loyalty,” said General Manager of FOX 28, Doug Holroyd.  “We also want to remind all of our viewers that FOX 28 is a broadcast television station and a beautiful HD signal can be seen over-the-air for free."

Back when this battle started, Northwest Broadcasting's Rand summarized the key issue this way:

"DirecTV’s allegation of gigantic price increases does not hold water in this case, since price was not the core issue that shot the agreement with Northwest down."

Here's the short version of what held things up, at least as reported by Northwest Broadcasting:

DirecTV wanted a "most favored nation" clause that guaranteed it would get a rate as good or better as any KAYU signed with other providers.

Then DirecTV also wanted this to be retroactive, back to January 2011. 

Northwest Broadcasting balked at that request.  And even now no one will say if they backed down, to help get the World Series broadcasts back on DirecTV.

Asked to comment on the settlement or explain how the sides resolved the issues, a DirecTV spokesman declined to give a reason.

Meanwhile, Rand suggested, in an email, that it was DirecTV who finally changed its stance:  "The World Series seemed to motivate DirecTV this week."

KAYU 28 Back On DirecTV

Word reached Robert Dobbins about 6:15 p.m. Thursday night: The World Series game between Detroit and San Francisco was on channel 28. The Coeur d'Alene man quickly moved from the uncomfortable straight back chair in his bedroom, in front of the TV with a makeshift antenna, to his more spacious living room with recliners and couch and a large screen high-definition TV. Much better. "That's fantastic," he said as he settled down to cheer on his beloved Giants. The return of the FOX network - channel 28 through Northwest Broadcasting's KAYU Spokane - to DirecTV was a pleasant surprise to local DirecTV customers. They've been without FOX for about three months due to a price dispute between Northwest Broadcasting and DirecTV/Bill Buley, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

DFO: This is the second time I've gone without Channel 28 as a result of a dispute with a cable provider. I broomed Time-Warner the first time it happened. Now that it's happened to DirecTV, too, I'd say that KAYU may be more responsible for the disruption.

Question: Who do you get your cable/satellite TV from? What do you pay for it?

KAYU and DirecTV spat won’t keep Seahawk fans from watching game

Seahawks fans who rely on DirecTV to see games are getting a break this Sunday.

You'd think that the ongoing signal blackout imposed on KAYU-28's local feed to DirecTV subscribers would mean they'd miss this Sunday's game vs. Arizona.

The blackout has continued since Aug. 13 between KAYU's parent firm and DirecTV, over fees and a few other matters. There's no certainty it will end before Sunday. Neither party seems willing to drop its demands.

However, DirecTV has a free NFL Sunday Ticket preview going on this weekend. That means even though one can't see the KAYU programs over the weekend, there's still that free feed for the weekend.

The DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package is much like other paid-system plans: you can get every game, every Sunday, throughout the season, as a premium offering.

And a DirecTV spokesman notes that even if the local Fox affiliate is blacking out the channel the game normally is on, that has no impact on the NFL Sunday Ticket feed.

Recent subscriber totals for DirecTV and Comcast show an upward trend

EDITED and revised Wednesday, Aug. 29:

Here's one piece of market information we didn't have earlier.

The total number of households in the Spokane DMA (designated market area) is about 430,000.

If the SNL Kagan number is correct, there are 351,656 homes that subscribe either to cable or satellite in this market.

That's 82 percent of all homes. The remainder either don't want to watch TV or rely on over-the-air signals, or have cut the cable and use web based systems, like Netflix or Hulu.

Updated subscriber numbers.

Earlier today OfficeHours posted the old December 2010 numbers relating to how many subscribers DirecTV has in the Spokane TV market. We went out today looking for the latest numbers. The market is the entire eastern Washington area over to the mountains, and also includes portions of Idaho and Oregon.

SNL Kagan, a media tracking company, provided the most recent update (numbers from 2Q 2012):

                   2010 subscribers                  2012 subscribers

Comcast:         100,000                                 107,034

DISH:               102,000                                 103,318

DIRECTV:           69,000                                  75,700

Total market area number of paid programming subscribers: 351,656.

What amazes us is that the three main providers gained paid subscribers in the past two years.

In a down economy, that's a bit of a surprise.

KAYU’s Fox programming again goes dark, and it’s a boring summer rerun

We ran through the KAYU-DirecTV blackout drill back in late 2010 and we pretty much got tired of it within a week.

Today's SR story is another summer rerun, a rehashing of many of the same issues that kept the sides from agreeing back 20 months ago.

Basically: national satellite provider DirecTV is complaining that Northwest Broadcasting (the parent of KAYU and some other Washington stations) is bullying it into an excessive fee for carrying its signal and programs.

NW Broadcasting is saying DirecTV has failed to come to the table in good faith, saying the two sides agreed on a carrying fee but then California-based DirecTV added other provisions that scotched the deal.

Both sides say they want to settle it, and help customers regain access to the KAYU Fox Network programs.

Back on 2011 when this last occurred, we went out and gathered up numbers from MediaBiz to see how the three main non-broadcast providers were doing in Spokane's DMA (dominant market area), in number of subscribers. Here was the number that was tallied back in 2010:

Dish: 102,000;  Comcast: 100,000; DirecTV: 69,000.

We doubt that the general proportion of subscribers has changed much since then.

Comcast goes after DirecTV over ‘free’ NFL Sunday Ticket promotions


  We keep track of  Comcast, the major cable provider in Eastern Washington. We also follow DirecTV, a satellite program provider that's been engaged in a longstanding contract dispute with the company operating KAYU-TV, the Spokane Fox Network affiliate.

In fact, the dispute between KAYU's owners and DirecTV is now in its ninth month, with no resolution in sight. There is the potential for another late-year shutdown of signals from KAYU if the parties don't agree.

So it caught our eye when Comcast filed suit against DirecTV. Here are the particulars:

Comcast filed a complaint in an Illinois court, alleging DirecTV is misrepresenting that it can offer NFL Sunday Ticket programming for free.

Sunday Ticket provides subscribers with all out-of-market games on Sunday afternoons.

“As none of the ads disclose,” the lawsuit said, “the offer is not for free NFL Sunday Ticket service — the offer requires a two-year contract with hefty termination for early cancellation with the NFL Sunday Ticket service automatically renewing in the second year at full price.”

Comcast also charged that DirecTV is a  "serial offender" in false advertising.

NW Broadcasting, DirecTV Still Talking

Item: Another extension announced between Northwest Broadcasting and DirecTV/Office Hours

More Info: The good news in the prolonged dispute between the guys who run the Spokane Fox affiliate (KAYU-TV) and DirecTV is the apparent desire to keep going until the matter is resolved. Again on Friday we learned the two side have set another extension; it seems like the 32nd time but it's more like the sixth or seventh, in fact. The two sides are contesting over the Retransmision Fee, the amount DirecTV pays to Northwest Broadcasting, for carrying the Fox signals into the homes of subscribers here in Eastern Washington. Northwest Broadcasting is also bargaining for a number of other Fox stations, in Yakima, Tri-Cities, Medford and in New York state.

Question: Do you stay with a cable or satellite company for long? Or do you switch every couple of years, depending on the deals offered by other companies?

Another extension announced between Northwest Broadcasting and DirecTV

The good news in the prolonged dispute between the guys who run the Spokane Fox affiliate (KAYU-TV) and DirecTV is the apparent desire to keep going until the matter is resolved.

Again on Friday we learned the two side have set another extension; it seems like the 32nd time but it's more like the sixth or seventh, in fact.

The two sides are contesting over the Retransmision Fee, the amount DirecTV pays to Northwest Broadcasting, for carrying the Fox signals into the homes of subscribers here in Eastern Washington. Northwest Broadcasting is also bargaining for a number of other Fox stations, in Yakima, Tri-Cities, Medford and in New York state.

The two sides hunkered down before the holidays, then had to deal with massive anger when NW required DirecTV to pull its Fox signal from Jan. 1 to just about the Super Bowl (which was being carried on Fox).

The sides say progress appears to be occurring. But no one offers a statement on the final issues separating the two sides.

And meanwhile, viewers must be wondering: will that blackout happen again?

Once again DirecTV, KAYU fail to settle retrans fee dispute, set one more deadline

The continuing dispute between Northwest Broadcasting, Inc., and DirecTV has run past another deadline.

The two sides, unable to agree on a retransmission fee for Spokane's Fox affiliate, KAYU, extended a negotiation deadline through April 8. The last one expired on Friday, March 25.

Back in January, the fracas led to Northwest, which operates KAYU, to pull its signal from the area's DirecTV satellite subscribers. Enough clamor followed that the two sides agreed to a ceasefire; that happened in the week prior to the Super Bowl, which was carried on Fox this year.

The two sides continue saying the other party is holding back the solution. Northwest Broadcasting says this is the first time in 10 years it's been able to negotiate a new deal with DirecTV. The satellite company says the requested fees from Northwest are exorbitant.

KAYU still on DirecTV; both sides agree to keep talking

DirecTV customers in the Spokane TV market will continue seeing KAYU, the Spokane Fox affiliate.

A long dispute over retransmission fees between DirecTV and Northwest Broadcasting, the parent owner of KAYU, is still not resolved.

But the sides agreed late Friday to extend the ceasefire for another week. KAYU could have been pulled off the DirecTV satellite lineup, over the dispute. The station disappeared for all of January, then came back on as both sides resumed stalled discussions.

Northwest VP Jon Rand said the extension will run through this coming Friday, March 18.

KAYU Vs. DirecTV, The Sequel

Those of you subscribers to DirecTV might want to get ready for “KAYU Blackout, the Sequel.”  It could happen. Back in late January, the parent company of Spokane Fox affiliate KAYU agreed to return the station to the DirecTV lineup. That was done to give viewers access to the Super Bowl. The cease-fire came after a full month of signal blackout, a period in which the two sides took regular potshots in the media at the other. They finally OK'd a four-week grace period, scheduled to end this week, to work out an acceptable retransmission rate between KAYU's owner (Northwest Broadcasting) and DirecTV. It's now more than four weeks and Friday is the deadline for reaching a settlement, said Jon Rand, VP of Northwest Broadcasting, in Spokane/Office Hours. More here.

Question: Have you switched cable/satellite TV options in the last year?

KAYU and DirecTV battle: it’s not over yet

Those of you subscribers to DirecTV might want to get ready for "KAYU Blackout, the Sequel."  It could happen.

Back in late January, the parent company of Spokane Fox affiliate KAYU agreed to return the station to the DirecTV lineup. That was done to give viewers access to the Super Bowl. The cease-fire came after a full month of signal blackout, a period in which the two sides took regular potshots in the media at the other.

They finally OK'd a four-week grace period, scheduled to end this week, to work out an acceptable retransmission rate between KAYU's owner (Northwest Broadcasting) and DirecTV.

It's now more than four weeks and Friday is the deadline for reaching a settlement, said Jon Rand, VP of Northwest Broadcasting, in Spokane.

The dispute comes down to how much Northwest can convince DirecTV to pay per household to carry the KAYU local affiliate signals.

The discussions have continued but both sides say they haven't come close to concluding the deal.


Dish Network hardly better than Comcast, sees cord-cutting, penny-pinching

One week ago Office Hours had a post on the continuing decline in video customers felt by cable company Comcast Corp.

This week let's be fair and give an update on the tough year Dish Network had in 2010.

Dish Network Corp. on Feb. 24 said it gained a mere U.S. 33,000 customers in 2010, one of its smallest subscriber increases in years, due to increased competition, higher numbers of subscribers "cutting the cord" and a weak economy.

The recently filed 10-K form said Dish Network felt a 92 percent drop in net new subscribers in 2010, compared with 2009.

The satellite service provider said its churn rate rose to 1.76 percent in 2010, up from 1.64 percent in 2009. Dish gave as one reason "programming interruptions related to contract disputes."

In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone Dish Network lost 156,000 subscribers but boosted profit and revenue as consumers spent more on services.

After a month, KAYU signals finally turned back on for DIRECTV customers

Wednesday's Spokesman.com had a story on the four-week truce between Northwest Broadcasting, Inc., and DirecTV over the retransmission fee to be paid to carry KAYU signals.

Bottom line, folks don't have to buy an antenna or drive miles to see the Super Bowl this weekend.

There are still issues to be resolved; the two sides agreed to get together and push for an agreement.

One of the notable terms of the ceasefire was a request by Northwest's CEO and President Brian Brady that the negotiations become one-on-one. That request included a specific request that Brady meet with  DirecTV's CEO Michael White in a one-to-one session.

Which tells people: these two companies tried to resolve this dispute through proxies and totally by phone or e-mail. With disappointing results.

Notably, Brady's announcement on Tuesday included mention of the fact that DirecTV had agreed to start refunding the high-priced early termination fees some subscribers had to incur to leave DirecTV.

DirecTV said: No, we're not agreeing to do that.  Dan Hartman, the senior VP of programming for Los Angeles-based DirecTV, said those refunds are not part of the negotiations.

That doesn't mean refunds won't be provided. It just said they are not linked to the contract talks.

DirecTV, KAYU Reach Interim Pact?

An off-the-field nail-biter ahead of this Sunday's Super Bowl appeared to be headed toward a temporary resolution Tuesday night. DirecTV and Northwest Broadcasting announced an interim deal that will put Fox programming - including the big game - back on the air as early as today. "We're happy that Northwest (Broadcasting) granted our request to put the channels back on while we negotiate a deal," Dan Hartman, DirecTV's senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "We are making arrangements to restore the channels as soon as possible and look forward to getting a deal done as quickly as we can"/Joel Mills, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Will you believe it when you see it?

Revised post: KAYU-Time Warner fee dispute in North Idaho may be longest blackout ever

Still no news on when the long, 28-day retransmission payment dispute affecting DIRECTV customers will end.

This is no fun for customers who are paying good money to DIRECTV and feel abused by the battle between DIRECTV and Northwest Broadcasting, which owns and operates KAYU, the Spokane Fox affiliate.

After quick research, we learned we were wrong in yesterday's post on the longest-lasting blackout.

Between December 2006 and February 2008, Spokane's own Northwest Broadcasting blacked out its signal for North Idaho Time Warner Cable subscribers. That 14-month stretch is the apparent longest recent signal denial.

In recent memory, the longest blackout occurred between January and December 2005, nearly a full year.

That was between Cable One, a southwest cable operator, and Nextstar Broadcast, which operated several stations in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.

Looking for numbers: how much should DIRECTV pay KAYU for programs?

Day 24 of the KAYU DIRECTV blackout, with no sign that the impasse will end soon.

We asked both sides by e-mail if movement was likely today. 

We learned neither side seems optimistic. DIRECTV said, simply, they saw nothing new to resolve the long dispute — which centers on how much DIRECTV will pay, per household, for the ability to deliver KAYU's Fox Network Spokane-based programs to viewers in the region.

Jon Rand, COO of Northwest Broadcasting, which runs KAYU TV, said about the same:

"DIRECTV has made no offer in response to our new offer on Friday.  In fact, they are still sitting where there were on Jan. 1, while we  have made three proposals to them."

We have no clarity on how much distance the two sides are apart, in price.

What would be helpful is to find what other affiliates are getting from DIRECTV or from Dish Network, for similarly sized markets, comparable to Spokane.

Anyone have access to solid numbers?  What is the fee per TV household that DIRECTV pays to affiliates in Boise, or in Tacoma?

What does Comcast pay in those cities?  Anyone?

A run for antennas continues during KAYU-DIRECTV blackout

The Seahawks season is over but Spokane and North Idaho TV viewers are still chasing down indoor or outdoor antennas. Area retailers say the surge in antenna-shopping is tied to the three-week TV blackout affecting DIRECTV subscribers.

The blackout, which began Jan. 1, has left many DIRECTV subscribers unable to watch Fox Network shows, carried by Spokane Fox affiliate KAYU TV.

Northwest Broadcasting, the owner of KAYU, is seeking an increase in how much DIRECTV pays it for carrying the Fox broadcasts. DIRECTV has said the request is exorbitant.

The blackout has no effect on over-the-air viewers or those using cable or Dish Network.

“We’re selling about 10 antennas a day,” said Casey Randolf, a sales associate for the NorthTown Mall Radio Shack.

Pat Williams, department lead for the East Sprague Kmart, said the store sold out its dozen indoor antennas by Thursday.

Jason Simonetti, an associate at the Post Falls Radio Shack, said the store sold out all its antennas last Friday, two days ahead of the Seahawks playoff game carried by Spokane TV station KAYU.

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….

No news on Northwest Broadcast-DIRECTV impasse

Area subscribers to DIRECTV continue hoping the payment dispute with Northwest Broadcasting, Inc., which operates KAYU TV, will be settled soon.

The latest is a press release from Northwest saying it's asking for an independent verification of statements made by DIRECTV about what it has paid other similar broadcasters.

Here's the paragraph in a Jan. 14 release from Northwest Broadcasting:

The most recent proposal made by Northwest yesterday was a conditional proposal whereby Northwest would accept, based on DIRECTV's  representation and independent verification of those representations, their marketplace number which they have offered Northwest. "They claim they are not paying any broadcaster more than they have offered Northwest, I'll accept that as long as we are allowed to have an independent audit firm verify what they are telling me to be factual" said Brian Brady, CEO of Northwest."

We hope to get a response soon from DIRECTV on this statement.

Stay tuned.

KAYU’s over-the-air signal and how it can help find a blackout solution

There is a way to work-around the KAYU transmission blackout continuing in much of the area, affecting households subscribing to DIRECTV. But it's not simple and not a sure thing for many affected viewers.

It comes down to getting DIRECTV to assign your home an alternate Fox Broadcasting signal from another market, like Los Angeles, instead of from Spokane's KAYU.  You will have to call DIRECTV and convince them that you live in an area not likely to receive an over-the-air signal from KAYU's Spokane antenna.

This map, found at the FCC, displays a projected area where the signal can generally be counted on to be decent. In general, outside this area within the radius, you have the option. If you live inside the area, you may still be eligible for the work-around. But you would have to live in an area with unusually challenging terrain limitations.

Also: if you are in an area which has a signal repeater, you may seem to be eligible based on the map, but in fact will be considered ineligible to apply for a different network signal.

If you've already done so, leave a comment here to explain whether the phone process needed to accomplish that goal is easy or hard. 

Talks continuing to settle KAYU-DIRECTV contract impasse

With another sour weekend for DIRECTV customers straight ahead, we asked for some comments by the satellite service provider on what's keeping a settlement from resolving the blackout affecting KAYU's programs.

Since Jan. 1, KAYU, a part of Northwest Broadcasting, has not been carried to roughly 170,000 households in five markets, including Spokane, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Medford.

The dispute comes down to a number of questions, with money being a critical problem.

Unless the block on programming ends, thousands of Eastern Washington or North Idaho DIRECTV customers can't get the Spokane-KAYU Fox Broadcasting shows.

Especially painful for football fans are scheduled Fox broadcasts of two NFL playoff games: Atlanta vs.  Green Bay on Saturday, Seahawks vs. Bears on Sunday.

Robert Mercer, a spokesman for DIRECTV, sent this statement regarding the contract impasse:

"Their demand for a 600 percent increase is still on the table.  And our position is this: In the months of November and December alone, we came to an agreement with six broadcast groups, representing 67 markets and  86 individual local television stations across the country. And agreed to pay market prices for all of them. Now comes Northwest Broadcasting, who wants us to pay them fees that are astronomically higher than market.  We won’t do that to our customers because it would result in them paying significantly more for their programming than the normal yearly increase."

For its part Northwest has said this is the first negotiation of its retransmission rates with DIRECTV for 10 years. Northwest COO Jon Rand has said Northwest is eager to settle, and he pointed to recent successful retransmission deals with Comcast, Dish Network and other cable companies.

Should Congress prevent station ‘blackouts’ in contract disputes?

If you're one of the thousands of area TV households that are blacked-out because of the dispute between Northwest Broadcasting Inc. and DIRECTV, here's one option: contact Congress.

The dispute led to a full FOX network blackout for about 170,000 households who use DIRECTV in five TV markets to watch Spokane's KAYU and other stations.

Nearly every year some provider, like Comcast, Time Warner, Dish Network or DIRECTV engages in a  stare-down with a broadcast company over retransmission payments. That's the negotiated price carriers like DIRECTV pay to broadcasters like Northwest Broadcasting for providing that station's programs to subscribers.

The American Television Alliance, based in D.C., has advocated for viewer protection by suggesting Congress or the FCC should set rules over retransmission disputes. Its website includes a link where concerned viewers can email Congress. It's here or http://www.americantelevisionalliance.org/whats-the-issue/ if you need to cut and paste.

The next question: Do you want Congress involved in broadcast disputes? There are a range of answers; and the one we think is acceptable is: No.

We don't want federal intervention other than requiring stations to carry those signals while a contract dispute lingers.

But also, there needs to be some time limit on that mandated continued coverage. If it's an open-ended requirement that no broadcasts can be shut down during a dispute, it's certain that some contract impasses will linger longer than they now do.

Is there a better idea out there?  Let's hear your suggestions….

Spokane KAYU-DIRECTV dispute one of 3 market blackouts over retransmission fees

Fans of the Simpsons…. you may be out of luck again, if you get Fox Network programs from DIRECTV.  A market DIRECTV blackout that began Jan. 1 continues, with no word on a possible solution.

A representative from one of the parties said, in an e-mail sent Friday afternoon, that the negotiations may continue over the weekend.

Fox viewers in the Spokane TV market bummed by the blackout from the dispute with DIRECTV should take some small comfort; they're not the only ones feeling the loss.

Three separate blackouts have marked the new yearr, according to the American Television Alliance, a Washington, D.C., association advocating for TV audiences.

The two others, outside the Spokane-Northwest Broadcasting-Fox snafu are a blackout by KOMU, an NBC affiliate in Columbia, Mo., and Frontier Radio Management, which runs Fox and ABC affiliates in central Georgia.

The Missouri contretemps also involves DIRECTV; the Georgia dispute involves Dish Network.

The Spokane market dispute really involves five separate markets: Spokane, Tri-Cities, Yakima, Medford and Binghamton, N.Y. Earlier this week Northwest Broadcasting COO Jon Rand said the contact dispute may center on the money DIRECTV will pay for carrying the signals of those stations, but it was just one of four issues at the table. He declined to say what the other three issues are.

NEW:  As of Friday Jan. 7, Rand said the dispute now remains over just three issues.

He also said Northwest Broadcasting is seeking a traditional payment system; that would involve different rates-per-household across the five separate markets. Again, since the matter is in negotiation Rand said he wouldn't offer specifics.

The other side, DIRECTV, claims that Northwest Broadcasting is bargaining in bad faith and trying to use the dispute to extort a "600 percent" price increase. A DIRECTV press release said “Northwest Broadcasting … has decided they would rather deprive our customers of their local channels than make even an honest and good faith attempt to reach a fair deal in contract negotiations.”

DirecTV, Fox Exchange Barbs

Item: Barbs traded over FOX blackout: KAYU-TV owners and DirecTV clash while seeking new contract/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press

More Info: Programming carrier DirecTV and Northwest Broadcasting Inc., which owns and operates FOX affiliate KAYU-TV, have decided they're not going to disagree quietly while they negotiate a possible new contract. Meanwhile, El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV's customers are experiencing a blackout on their Fox Network programs that started after a 10-year contract between the two sides expired Dec. 31. The National Football League playoffs start this weekend, creating more urgency to agree on a new contract.

Question: Who do you blame most for the impasse that has cost DirecTV viewers access to KAYU Fox 28 — DirecTV or Northwest Broadcasting?

McKenna takes on DirecTV

Customers of the nation’s largest satellite television service are being lured into long contracts they don’t understand with fees they don’t know they must pay, Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna contends.

A spokesman for DirecTV said the company is “disappointed” the suit was filed but predicted it won’t stand up in court.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in King County Superior Court, McKenna accused DirecTV of violating the state’s Consumer Protection law by hiding details of their “one-sided” subscription contracts in the small print of advertising, misusing the term free when describing some services and improperly keeping money from deposits required of some customers.