By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, we’ve been without our NBC station for months now. DIRECTV is fighting with the station and it doesn’t look like we will ever get our station back. Isn’t there a law that says a cable or satellite company has to carry all the local stations? How can DIRECTV get away with not having our NBC station? — Molly, Tampa.
Molly, DIRECTV has been without the 159 Nexstar-owned network affiliates since July 2 due to a carriage dispute between the companies. (The impasse also affects DIRECTV Stream and U-verse.) As we noted yesterday, the opening of the 2023 NFL season couldn’t even compel the two companies to settle. Consequently, many fans missed games broadcast on Sunday on CBS, NBC and Fox.

I’ve received a handful of e-mails in the past few weeks from readers asking if DIRECTV is breaking the law by not providing all the local channels in a given market. The federal ‘must-carry’ rules of the Communications Act/Satellite Home Viewer Act do require cable and satellite TV operators to carry local broadcast stations within their designated market areas if they carry any local stations at all. For example, if DIRECTV wants to offer NBC in Chicago, the rules require it to provide the other local stations as well. The rules are intended to ensure that multiple broadcasters can offer timely news and weather information to local audiences as well as promote the public interest.

But there is an exception to the ‘must-carry’ rule. If the local station ops to sell its signal to the cable or satellite operator rather than provide it for free, the cable or satellite operator is under no obligation to carry it. And that’s the situation we have in the Nexstar dispute. Nexstar, like nearly every other broadcaster, has decided that selling its signals to the TV providers is far more profitable than giving them away and then solely trying to generate advertising based on higher ratings. By selling the station signals, the broadcaster can get the best of both worlds — carriage fees and advertising revenue.

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

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— Phillip Swann