Attorneys for KRQE 13 television in Albuquerque are reviewing customer complaints concerning the loss of their DIRECTV local HD channels and their national affiliates: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.
Numerous reports and crossed lines of communication have left DIRECTV customers confused about recent adjustments the California-based company made to its HD local-channel- programming guides.
However, DIRECTV wants to set the record straight.
â€œThe goal is to make sure that the majority of these customers in the affected area are not confused into thinking they can see HD locals, when they cannot,â€ Robert Mercer, public relations director of DIRECTV, said.Â â€œUltimately, we want to give our customers the best possible viewing experience and be clear about what channels they can receive. There are certainly trade-offs in the system, but we are trying to do whatâ€™s best for the majority of our customers.â€
On Nov. 1, the company cleared its local channel programming guide, which included ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC national HD channels for its Albuquerque- Santa Fe distinguished market area (DMA) fringe markets.
Despite this claim, small glitches in the DIRECTV system are allowing some viewers to continue to receive their channels. Others are being left in the dark.
According to Mercer, DIRECTV did not send out an announcement to fringe markets explaining that they would not be able to receive local HD channels, because customers were told that they would not receive the channels when they signed up. Not so, said Craig Wilkerson, a Roswell resident and DIRECTV customer.
â€œI donâ€™t know if there was any fine print in any contract that I was not made aware of, but certainly, I was led to believe if I purchased the package with the locals and purchased the additional HD that I would get it. And certainly, I did for quite a few years. That changed on Nov. 1.â€ Wilkerson said.
Customers like Wilkerson believe that merchants misled them when they purchased their HD. Several are accusing DIRECTV of using â€œbaitand- switchâ€ tactics.
â€œOur agents are very well-versed,â€ Mercer said. â€œMistakes do happen … no one would knowingly do that to a customer. If there is a claim like that we would certainly investigate it.â€
Mercer said that lines of communication between agents and higher -ups could have been misinterpreted. â€œItâ€™s possible that the dealer may not have been (informed) that there were unserved areas of their market … if (so), it was our fault,â€ Mercer said. Mercerâ€™s statement is the closest thing DIRECTV has come toward accepting blame for the brewing controversy between its company, customers and local news stations.
Station managers, like customers, are still scratching their heads on the matter, because of their investment in HD technology and their expectations of satellite providers. KRQE general manager William Anderson, has been in talks with DIRECTV since they stopped of fering local channels to fringe markets. Anderson said that discussions have led him to believe that DIRECTV removed local channels from programming guides because of profitability.
â€œI just assumed that they were not profiting,â€ Anderson said. â€œWe have enough trouble trying to keep viewers happy (with programming).â€
Anderson initially said he was told by DIRECTV â€œwe withdrew it because it wasnâ€™t profitable,â€ but clarified his statement. Despite what may sit at the center of this controversy, only one party truly knows what happened, and thatâ€™s DIRECTV.
According to Mercer, the company knows where their spot beams are. In addition, longley-rice prediction technology makes it possible for DIRECTV to pinpoint the reach of its spot-beam, but the company will not release any information that shows specifically where that signal becomes faint and where their spot-beams are.
â€œOur system wonâ€™t allow us to cherry-pick individual customers,â€ Mercer said. â€œI donâ€™t know what these customers are experiencing. We have to look at the majority of customers. (Our system) wonâ€™t allow us to pick out customers. We canâ€™t authorize (access) by specific address.â€
Mercer said that customers looking to gain access to local HD channels and their corresponding national channels can apply for a waiver.
â€œGiven that they canâ€™t receive HD locals, they can check to see if theyâ€™re eligible to receive distant network signals â€¦ such as KABC, KCBS out of Los Angeles,â€ Mercer said. â€œIf theyâ€™re not eligible, they can request a waiver through DIRECTV, but that waiver must be granted by the local stations.â€
DIRECTVâ€™s reason for removing local channel program guides is a complex and technical issue. Yet, the company hopes customers can come to understand their reasons for recent adjustments.
â€œWhen we focus our satellite beams on a market to deliver local channels, we need to make sure theyâ€™re not interfering with our beams in an adjoining market,â€ Mercer said. â€œBy adjusting these beams weâ€™re able to avoid any overlap and still offer local channels in those adjoining markets. This enables us to offer local channels to more customers, though we may not be able to offer local HD channels to every customer who wants them.â€
However, small glitches are allowing some customers to record HD programming via DVR, even without the existence of local channels in their program guide, which is â€œunlikely,â€ according to Mercer. Still, Mercer claims that channel adjustments do not affect large populations, but only markets on the fringe.
He said that only a fraction of the 16 national markets, including Albuquerque-Santa Fe DMA was impacted. Anderson disagrees.
â€œOurs was bigger,â€ Anderson said. â€œIt was a bigger impact here.â€