By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, I am so mad that DIRECTV took our local Fox station away. Do you know why it can’t keep it on? It doesn’t make any sense to me. It can’t help their business. They say it’s because the station won’t let them. Is that right? Why wouldn’t the local station want their signals on DIRECTV? They would reach more people!! — Ellie, Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ellie, DIRECTV last night lost 159 Nexstar-owned local network affiliates, and NewsNation, due to a carriage dispute between the companies. The blackout also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.

Nexstar says its local stations reach 115 markets representing 63 percent of all U.S. TV households. To see a list of the Nexstar stations, click here.

I have already received a few e-mails from readers, such as Ellie’s, asking why Nexstar would force DIRECTV to remove the local channels. This doesn’t make sense to them. In their view, the local stations should be thrilled to get a spot in DIRECTV’s lineup because the satcaster is the second largest pay TV service in the nation, so thrilled in fact that they should pay DIRECTV. But for some reason the readers can’t understand, the local stations are telling DIRECTV that it has to pay them.

How is this possible?

Well, you can thank your representatives in Washington, at least the ones who were in Congress in 1992. That’s when Congress passed the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, commonly known as the Cable Act. The law established that cable and satellite TV operators are mandated to obtain consent from local broadcasters to carry their signals. In exchange, the operators are required to negotiate and pay fees to the broadcasters for retransmitting their content to subscribers.

The law was supposed to ensure that local stations would remain financially healthy and therefore be around indefinitely to provide important news and weather updates to viewers. It has done that, but it has also created a monster.

The local stations, and their corporate parents, have used the law over the years to demand higher and higher fees from the pay TV ops. The cost of carrying local channels has forced cable and satellite operators to raise their monthly subscriber rates so high than millions of customers have cut the cord.

The pay TV business is now in rapid decline and could ultimately be replaced by a hodge podge of streaming services with varying degrees of technical proficiency. Streaming can be a convenient and sometimes less expensive way to watch television, but it’s hard to deny that it doesn’t offer the same picture consistency as cable and satellite, particularly if you don’t have a first-rate Internet service.

However, you can’t blame the local stations for this situation. They are only playing the hand that’s been dealt to them and they would be crazy not to use the law to its maximum benefit.

If you’re looking to blame someone for why you can’t watch your local Nexstar station, look back to 1992.

This article is an updated version of an article we published last month.

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— Phillip Swann