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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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Weather Channel vs. DirecTV — Is it a matter of life and death?

PASADENA, Calif. - The folks at The Weather Channel are trying to convince you to call your congressman because they think their battle with DirecTV is a matter of life and death.

Really.

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The two are locked in the latest of the unending retransmission consent battles. Their contract expires at 10 p.m. MT on Monday; DirecTV says The Weather Channel wants too much money; The Weather Channel says DirecTV is endangering lives.

Really.

Here are excerpts from The Weather Channel’s big, scary release:

"ATLANTA, GA - Today The Weather Channel launched a nationwide campaign to alert DIRECTV customers that they are at risk of losing access to its critical weather programming, and asking them to contact Congress about this public safety issue

"Starting today, The Weather Channel will begin asking DIRECTV viewers and all Weather Channel supporters to call their Representative and Senators in Washington and ask them to help keep this critical public safety resource in the DIRECTV lineup. Given the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related emergencies across the country, access to timely and accurate weather information is imperative for public safety and, therefore, an issue meriting Congressional attention.

"The campaign, aimed at demonstrating the critical public safety role of The Weather Channel, will be supported by a multifaceted direct-to-consumer campaign that will include advertising on The Weather Channel, weather.com and on The Weather Channel’s mobile apps. Viewers who are interested in getting involved are encouraged to visit www.keeptheweatherchannel.com. Here, consumers can submit a letter to their Congressional representative and can find a list of Congressional office numbers to call to make their voice heard. Consumers are also encouraged to use social media to get involved with the campaign by sharing the keeptheweatherchannel.com URL, tweeting @directv using the hastag #stormdirectv, and posting on DIRECTV’s Facebook page.

"Every day, 100 million households rely on The Weather Channel to provide critical and accurate real-time weather-related information. With more than 220 meteorologists, forecasting covers the entire United States from the national and regional level, all the way down to the hyperlocal street level. The Weather Channel also maintains two-way partnerships with public and non-profit emergency response organizations, including The American Red Cross, FEMA and NOAA, allowing for a constant flow and disbursement of critical weather-related information when it matters most."

I have nothing against The Weather Channel. I don’t watch it much on DirecTV, because I don’t have a whole lot of time to wait for the local report to come up. (And, remember, this only affects DirecTV subscribers.)

Here is the satellite provider’s response:

"EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Jan. 11, 2014 - We remain in discussions with The Weather Channel on how to provide its service to our customers at the best value since people now use so many other ways to retrieve weather-related information. We launched WeatherNation (DIRECTV channel 361) as an alternative to provide 24/7 hard news weather coverage in response to numerous customer complaints that more than 40 percent of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows. DIRECTV also offers city-by-city weather coverage on more than 1,400 local broadcast stations and on DIRECTV’s emergency channels in times of severe weather."

Again, I’m not taking sides here. But I’m sort of insulted that what is a corporate battle is being framed like The Weather Channel is a public service. Or, at least, a public utility

A Weather Channel publicist tweeted this at me:

"People tell us all the time that The Weather Channel saved their lives. Has anyone said that about DirecTV? #stormDIRECTV"

I hope the two sides work it out. And I really hope the folks at The Weather Channel tone down the hyperbole, which could end up backfiring on them.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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