Q. I read AT&T and DIRECTV say Tegna pulled their signals and I read that Tegna says AT&T and DIRECTV pulled them. Who actually pulled or removed the channels? I’m very confused. — Emily, Fairfax, Virginia. 

Emily, that’s a great question. As you know, on December 1, DIRECTV lost 60 Tegna-owned local channels due to a carriage disagreement with the broadcaster. (The blackout also affects the AT&T-owned U-verse, AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now.)

Update: DIRECTV & Tegna sign new carriage pact.

Since the dispute began, AT&T, which also owns DIRECTV, has said Tegna “removed” the channels while Tegna has said the AT&T-owned TV services, including DIRECTV, is “taking away your access” to them, which sounds like a passive/aggressive way of saying they removed them.

So who’s right? Did DIRECTV take them away or did Tegna remove them? Both companies would like viewers to believe their position because it makes the other side look more responsible for the blackout. They removed the channels so they must be the reason why this is happening.

But the correct answer is that Tegna removed the channels. By law, a TV provider can not carry a local channel’s signal without its permission. And in this case, and all other carriage disputes, the TV provider can not carry it because it won’t pay what the local channel(s) is demanding for that authorization.

It’s not that AT&T doesn’t want to carry them because it doesn’t like their programming, or it doesn’t have room in its lineups. In fact, I’m sure AT&T would resuming carrying the Tegna channels this minute if it didn’t have to pay. But it doesn’t work that way.

This is not to say that we know AT&T is acting in “good faith” here. (Tegna says AT&T is definitely not.) We don’t know if the telco is offering to pay Tegna a fair rate to carry the channels, which presumably other pay TV providers have because they are carrying the channels. We can’t judge the merits of the two proposals because they are not publicized.

So we don’t know who’s ‘right’ in this dispute. For all we know, Tegna and AT&T are both acting in bad faith by both offering unrealistic proposals. That often happens in disputes in all industries until the two parties lessen their demands and settle.

But we can say that AT&T did not remove the channels. Tegna pulled them when AT&T said it wouldn’t agree to pay their fees.

Emily, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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