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March 28, 2019

Senators Collins, King Push for Increased Access to Local Broadcast Channels in Northern Maine

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) sent a letter to the leadership of the Judiciary and Commerce Committees expressing their concern about the reauthorization of distant signal provisions in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR).

Provisions in STELAR, which expires at the end of this year, allow satellite TV companies to import TV signals from major markets into local markets.  When the law initially passed 30 years ago, it was not feasible for satellite TV companies to rebroadcast local-into-local signals in all markets; however, modern technology has made this possible.  Although DISH Network provides local-into-local signal to all 210 local media markets, AT&T/DIRECTV does not offer this signal in 12 markets, including in Northern Maine.

“It has come to our attention that AT&T/DIRECTV subscribers in Northern Maine’s Presque Isle media market do not have access to their local broadcast channels from within Maine.  Although there is no technological limitation, AT&T/DIRECTV is providing these subscribers with broadcast channels from outside the state rather than those from more local broadcast stations in Presque Isle or even the Bangor or Portland-Auburn markets,” the Senators wrote.   “This is unacceptable and denies these viewers access to critically important in-state news, weather, and emergency information.”

“As your Committee deliberates whether STELAR’s distant signal statutory license provisions should sunset as originally intended, we are concerned that this license has not only outlived its usefulness, but now provides a below-market incentive for AT&T/DIRECTV to deny viewers in Northern Maine the in-state coverage they desire and deserve,” the Senators continued.  “We ask that you weigh this harm to our constituents — along with those viewers in any other neglected markets across the country — and work with us to remedy this problem.”

The Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) have expressed support for the Senators’ letter.

"We're grateful to Senators Collins and King for working to ensure that television viewers in Northern Maine have access to local news, weather, programming, and emergency information.  We deeply appreciate their support on this issue," said MAB President and CEO Suzanne Goucher.

“NAB applauds Senators Collins and King for supporting Maine residents’ ability to receive broadcast programming from a local TV affiliate rather than from an out-of-state station based hundreds of miles away. Clearly, AT&T/DirecTV’s massive resources allow it to deliver locally-based TV programming to viewers in Presque Isle and Caribou rather than rely on imported programming from New York City. We thank the Maine Senators for highlighting this unfair treatment to smaller market TV viewers,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton.

Click HERE to read the letter

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