Lawmakers worried Boston fans might miss Super Bowl over blackouts

Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are worried Boston-area DirecTV subscribers might miss Super Bowl XLVI because of a dispute over retransmission-consent fees.

Ten House members joined Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on Friday in writing to the CEOs of DirecTV and Sunbeam Television expressing their concern over the blackout, which has left 200,000 DirecTV subscribers without access to their local NBC or CW affiliates (Channels 7 and 56) since last Saturday.

I am concerned that my constituents in Boston have become leverage in a business negotiation, Brown wrote. 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.

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Senior Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, urging him to personally get involved in the negotiations, which also affect a Fox afiiliate in Miami owned by Sunbeam.

Kerry noted that this is the third year in a row he has been forced to bring a retransmission-consent dispute to the attention of the FCC, and asked Genachowski to move forward with proposed rulemaking on retransmission-consent disputes.

The Bay State’s House delegation also asked the FCC to help resolve the DirecTV-Sunbeam dispute.

Consumers should not be caught in the middle, wrote Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Barney Frank, Edward Markey and Niki Tsongas, among others.

Federal law prohibits cable operators from transmitting broadcast signals without first obtaining that stations consent.

Update: DirecTV sent the lawmakers a letter Tuesday in response claiming they are available to discuss a compromise with Sunbeam and quickly restore service at any time.

"That Sunbeam stands alone as the only station owner unable to reach an agreement with us, we believe puts them at odds with their public statements that all they are asking for is a market rate," said DirecTV executive vice president Derek Chang.

"Though Sunbeam continues to ignore our repeated requests to keep WHDH and WLVI on DIRECTV while we continue in good faith to negotiate a new contract, we will do everything possible to restore the NBC and CW stations for our Boston area customers."

--This post was updated at 6:15 p.m.