DirecTV Files FCC Complaint Over Fox Publicity Attacks

DirecTV on Thursday filed an FCC compliant against Fox after the company spent the last week running newspaper ads and TV promos attacking DirecTV’s currently negotiations with the company.

In a letter sent from DirectTV executive vice president Derek Chang:

“In the midst of a dispute over cable programming, Fox is using misleading advertising informing DirecTV customers that “soon, in some markets, you may lose your local Fox station,” even though our retransmission consent agreement does not expire for over two months.”

Fox went public with their attacks last week when they told customers that some of their channels could be pulled by November 1 if a new contract isn’t agreed upon. The company’s current contract covers Prime Ticket, Fox Sports West, FX and National Geographic. The company also has another contract that expires on December 31 and includes 27 Fox ownered and operated stations.

Fox took out a Sunday full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times in which they said Los Angeles residents could “soon” lose Fox 11 and Fox 13 if a deal doesn’t arrive momentarily.

In their complain DirecTV says:

“The carriage agreement between DirecTV and a number of cable networks controlled by Fox Cable Networks, Inc. expired on September 30,” and “Although the parties have been negotiating for months, Fox continues to demand that DirecTV customers pay significantly more for the same channels they already receive. At present, DirecTV is carrying this programming under an interim extension agreement. If a new deal is not reached, DirecTV will suspend carriage of these cable channels on November 1.”

Under current reports Fox would like to receive an increase of up to 40 percent in carriage-fees.

In the meantime Fox (not surprisingly owned by Rupert Murdochs News Corp.) has went on a propaganda campaign by having various show creators threaten viewers that their favor shows could be pulled off the air before their seasons officially come to an end.

Here’s the full letter that DirecTV sent to William T. Lake, Chief of the FCC Media Bureu:

William T. Lake

Chief

Media Bureau

Federal Communications Commission

445 Twelfth Street, S.W.

Washington, DC 20554

Dear Mr. Lake:

I want to alert you to a disturbing development that relates to the broadcast stations owned and operated by Fox Broadcasting Company, Inc. (“Fox”). Specifically, in the midst of a dispute over cable programming, Fox is using misleading advertising informing DIRECTV customers that “soon, in some markets, you may lose your local Fox station,” even though our retransmission consent agreement does not expire for over two months. Furthermore while Fox continues to run these misleading ads, Fox has refused to provide us a separate offer for the continued carriage of its broadcast stations.

The carriage agreement between DIRECTV and a number of cable networks controlled by Fox Cable Networks, Inc. expired on September 30. Although the parties have been negotiating for months, Fox continues to demand that DIRECTV customers pay significantly more for the same channels they already receive. At present, DIRECTV is carrying this programming under an interim extension agreement. If a new deal is not reached, DIRECTV will suspend carriage of these cable channels on November 1.

Even if the Fox cable channels are no longer carried on November 1, the broadcast stations are covered under a separate agreement, which does not expire until December 31. Fox, however, is running advertisements asserting that DIRECTV viewers “soon could even lose” the Fox broadcast stations in their local markets. One such advertisement ran in the widely-circulated Los Angeles Times editions for Sunday,

October 23, a copy of which is attached hereto. In addition, Fox’s television advertisements on its local broadcast stations state that viewers could lose local channels (showing clips from Glee and NFL games) that are not subject to this agreement.

Ironically, at the same time it is airing these warnings, Fox has repeatedly refused to provide us with a separate offer for carriage of the Fox broadcast stations.

On the one hand, Fox has refused to negotiate in good faith for carriage of the broadcast stations. At the same time, it is informing DIRECTV customers that they may soon lose access to such stations, purposely conflating a potential November 1 deadline for cable programming with the additional loss of broadcast programming the delivery of which is assured through the end of the year. Fox is clearly abusing the public trust by its deliberate attempt to confuse and alarm consumers. Such conduct is certainly not what the Commission had in mind when it made Fox a steward of the nation’s airwaves entrusted to serve the public interest.

DIRECTV still hopes to arrive at a fair agreement with Fox before its subscribers are deprived of any programming. In the meantime, we have demanded that Fox immediately stop running advertisements that mislead consumers by suggesting that DIRECTV subscribers may not be able to receive Fox broadcast stations. To date, Fox has failed to do so.

Do you think Fox needs to lower their demands which would in turn cost satellite subscribers even more money? This is where “per channel” ordering would come in handy.