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Kerry: Air the Super Bowl on DirecTV in Boston

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry sent a letter today to the owners of satellite TV service DirecTV and Sunbeam Television Corp., asking them to broadcast the Super Bowl, airing on Channel 7 on Feb. 5, to DirecTV customers in Greater Boston.

Sunbeam Television, which owns WHDH-TV (Channel 7) and WLVI-TV (Channel 56), cut its stations from the DirecTV lineup last week in a dispute over retransmission fees, which cable and satellite providers pay to TV stations to carry them. Sunbeam is seeking a hike in those fees from DirecTV.

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Kerry, a Democrat and chairman of a Senate subcommittee on communications, wrote that he wants local DirecTV customers “to know that they will not become collateral damage in a dispute leveraged up against the most important game of the NFL season,” adding, “I strongly urge you both to issue a public statement that your current retransmission consent dispute will not include blacking out the Super Bowl.”

Senator Scott Brown sent a letter to DirecTV and Sunbeam officials on Friday, asking them to come to a resolution before the Super Bowl. “It is outrageous that subscribers would pay hundreds of dollars a year for service and not get to watch the Super Bowl, the biggest television event of the year,’’ he wrote.

In a statement, DirecTV said it “continues to stand ready to put all three of Sunbeam’s stations back on immediately while we negotiate.”

Last Thursday, Kerry had sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski asking the agency to step in and facilitate a resolution to the fees dispute. A spokeswoman for Kerry said today that there had been no response to that letter. A call to the FCC was not immediately returned.

The dispute has left about 200,000 DirecTV subscribers in the Boston TV market without access to NBC and the CW network programming. WHDH, the NBC affiliate in Boston, will broadcast the Super Bowl.

Sunbeam and DirecTV were still in negotiations today.

Johnny Diaz can be reached at
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