DIRECTV has sued Nexstar, Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting, alleging the three companies have violated anti-trust law in a scheme to pump up carriage fees for local network affiliates.

The satcaster, and its sister services, U-verse and DIRECTV Stream, have been without Mission’s 26 local stations and White Knight’s three stations since October due to separate carriage disputes. However, DIRECTV has maintained that Nexstar, which serves as the operating business for both station groups, has pulled the strings behind the scenes of the negotiations and forced the two companies to seek higher fees.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, DIRECTV charges that Nexstar’s role has denied it “a fair competitive process that has resulted in higher prices being demanded of it and lost profits.”

Nexstar, Mission and White Knight have yet to issue a comment, but the latter two groups have said they are only seeking a fair market rate for their signals.

The DIRECTV lawsuit strikes at a recurring complaint from pay TV operators that local broadcasters are demanding excessive fees to carry their signals. The escalating fees, the pay TV services say, force them to raise their customer’s monthly bills, causing many subscribers to cut the cord.

While DIRECTV is not accusing other companies of conspiracy in raising the fees, the satcaster is clearly saying that the playing field needs to be leveled.

“DIRECTV today took a stand for its customers by mounting a legal challenge against a conspiracy among three broadcasters to illegally increase content costs for free over-the-air TV,” the company stated in a press release. “The fees distributors pay for permission to offer their customers local broadcast stations have soared more than 5,000 percent in the past 17 years and is the single largest source of rising costs facing video consumers today.  When any distributors resist extreme rate increases, Nexstar and other broadcast giants act as a gateway to black out key content from consumers living within any regions they are exclusively licensed to serve, and levy far higher tolls to bring that programming back.”

The TV Answer Man will update this story if we receive additional statements or information regarding the blackouts.

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— Phillip Swann