Oregon Delegation Pushes for an End to Service Blackouts

Oregon Delegation Pushes for an End to Service Blackouts

DirecTV subscribers have lost access to local news due to ongoing contract negotiations between media groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, today pressed executives of AT&T/DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group to consider the public safety implications of the local broadcasting blackout affecting Oregonians, and restore access to news programming.

The local news blackouts in Oregon and across the country come as AT&T/DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group, Inc.—which owns KOIN 6 in Portland—renegotiate terms of their operating contract.

“The details of the contract negotiations should be left to the two interested parties,” the delegation wrote. “However, service blackouts threaten the public safety of our constituents and thus run contrary to the public interest.”

The delegation pointed to the need for the public to be able to access information about urgent breaking news, severe weather events, and other information reported in local news: “Oregonians across the state rely on local programming for critical up-to-date information regarding breaking news, traffic events, and dangerous weather conditions. Given that the Pacific Northwest is bracing for an earthquake of record magnitude and is rapidly approaching another wildfire season, we are especially concerned that our constituents are losing access to timely weather news that could prove lifesaving in the event of disaster.”

“While you continue working to resolve your differences,” the delegation continued, “we urge you to put public safety first and provide carriage of KOIN 6 and other local broadcasts so that your consumers in Oregon can continue to access the local news programming on which they rely.”

Find the full letter here and below.

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July 22, 2019

Dear Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Sook:

We write today with concerns that communities around the country are experiencing blackouts of their local television stations due to an ongoing contract negotiation between AT&T/DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group, Inc. This widespread blackout hits home in our state, where Oregonians are no longer able to obtain access to KOIN 6 and other local broadcasting through their DirecTV subscription.

The details of the contract negotiations should be left to the two interested parties; however, service blackouts threaten the public safety of our constituents and thus run contrary to the public interest. Oregonians across the state rely on local programming for critical up-to-date information regarding breaking news, traffic events, and dangerous weather conditions. Given that the Pacific Northwest is bracing for an earthquake of record magnitude and is rapidly approaching another wildfire season, we are especially concerned that our constituents are losing access to timely weather news that could prove lifesaving in the event of disaster.

It is our hope that you can conclude your negotiations expeditiously. While you continue working to resolve your differences, we urge you to put public safety first and provide carriage of KOIN 6 and other local broadcasts so that your consumers in Oregon can continue to access the local news programming on which they rely.

Respectfully,