People are upset about the lengthy absence of KOMU/NBC, Columbia, from the DirecTV lineup. Their upset is understandable, because viewers have a strong affinity for a community-oriented broadcaster like KOMU and the NBC and CW programming we provide.
Some suggest that we simply capitulate in these negotiations and do "whatever it takes" to come to terms with DirecTV. Unfortunately, despite our repeated efforts to resolve this impasse in a mutually beneficial way, DirecTV has taken a very hard line.
Perhaps more important, to simply acquiesce to DirecTV's demands would do lasting harm both to our viewers and to the educational mission that is the cornerstone of KOMU's existence.
Is our long-term viability as a local broadcaster worth inconveniencing our viewers who are also DirecTV subscribers? With all due respect, we believe it is.
Here are some facts that reinforce our belief:
- KOMU has been pursuing DirecTV about a new contract since March 3. As a sign of good faith in our negotiations and to avoid interrupting our viewers who are DirecTV subscribers, we twice chose to continue making our programming available even after our contract had expired. Those extensions got us nowhere. DirecTV is stonewalling us, and it has been weeks since it has engaged in any constructive dialogue about resolving our differences.
- All local network affiliates (KOMU; KRCG/CBS, Jefferson City; KMIZ/ABC, Columbia; and KQFX/FOX, mid-Missouri) negotiate retransmission contracts every few years with DirecTV as well as Dish Network Corp. and local cable providers. Revenues from the cable and satellite companies that resell our programming to their subscribers help us recoup the cost of buying the network programming and other popular shows our audiences enjoy. In these current negotiations, our single market commercial television station is banging heads with a behemoth corporation like DirecTV that reported 2012 revenues of nearly $30 billion.
- Giving DirecTV everything it demands would jeopardize all future retransmission negotiations and, ultimately, our ability to operate independently of any university or state funding. It would also impact our ability to make ongoing investments in equipment and technology that make the experiences and education of our students unique among university broadcast journalism programs.
No local broadcaster likes to have viewer access to its programming interrupted. Please be assured that we are working diligently and look forward to reaching a successful agreement as soon as possible.
But we must never lose sight of the need for KOMU to be fairly compensated by subscription-based providers like DirecTV for the valuable programming we buy and produce as we serve our local viewers.
Marty Siddall is general manager of KOMU and mid-Missouri's CW.