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WIVB misleads viewers on story about Higgins' letter over DirecTV dispute

Alan Pergament

You might expect a news station to report accurately on a story in which it was involved.

You might be wrong.

A misleading story was carried on the WIVB-TV website Tuesday about the dispute between its owner, Nexstar Media Group, and DirecTV owner AT&T concerning a letter written by Rep. Brian Higgins to the executives of both companies about the absence of WIVB and sister station WNLO-TV from the satellite service.

Here’s the lead of the Channel 4 story: “Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on AT&T to end a blackout impacting more than a hundred local TV stations. WIVB and WNLO are two of the Nexstar stations across the country that have been blacked out by DirecTV and AT&T.

“In a letter to AT&T and Nexstar, Congressman Higgins writes that the lack of access does not serve public interest or safety.

“Our owner, Nexstar Media Group, says it offered to extend the current deal through early August to keep the stations on the air, but we’re told DirecTV and AT&T refused to continue negotiating.”

Six questions about DirecTV's fight with WIVB's owner, including who is to blame

The Higgins letter to Dan York, senior executive vice president and chief content officer of AT &T, and Perry A. Sook, chairman, president and chief operating officer of Nexstar, didn’t actually call "on AT&T" to end the blackout, as the Channel 4 story suggested.

In reality, Higgins called on both AT&T and Nexstar to end the dispute. He didn’t take sides in the letter.

“I strongly urge both of your companies to complete negotiations so that any impact to access to services is minimized,” wrote Higgins.

"To reiterate, I strongly encourage all parties to negotiate with each other in good faith. I urge that this process take place expeditiously and that each side serve the public interest by prioritizing the best interests of Western New Yorkers and understand the special contributions that local broadcasting and journalism make to my community and constituents.”

Each company blames the other for the blackout.

According to Multichannel News, Nexstar said it offered to allow the stations to stay on DirecTV through Aug. 2 while contract negotiations continued. Nexstar added it recently came to agreements with other carriers and is just asking for the same fees it has received in those deals.

AT&T, which owns DirecTV, claimed Nexstar removed its stations after it rejected a deal that would have paid the company more money. It claimed that Nexstar is “demanding the largest increase that AT&T has ever seen from any content provider.”

Nexstar denies pulling the stations.

Ratings time: The American League’s 4-3 win over the National League in Tuesday night’s All-Star game got only a 4.5 rating on local Fox affiliate WUTV… The ESPYs award show on ABC affiliate WKBW-TV Wednesday night averaged a 1.1 rating.


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