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20 million DirecTV customers nationwide lose The Weather Channel in fee dispute

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - About 20 million DirecTV customers nationwide lost The Weather Channel because of a dispute over fees between the channel and the satellite service.

The two companies pointed fingers at each other late Monday as a midnight EST deadline for renegotiation of carriage fees paid by DirecTV to The Weather Channel passed without an agreement.

In a statement, David Kenny, CEO of the channel's parent company, The Weather Co., said it offered DirecTV the best rate for its programming. Kenny accused the satellite provider of putting profits ahead of public safety.

"We are not looking for a large fee increase," Kenny said, just a "fair deal" that allows for continued investment in science and technology to deliver weather news and stories to viewers.

DirecTV called the loss of The Weather Channel "regrettable" but added that it would continue to provide weather news on its WeatherNation channel.

According to a statement from Dan York, DirecTV chief content officer, the two sides haven't stopped talking.

DirecTV is discussing an agreement to return the channel to its lineup at "the right value for our customers," York said. The Weather Channel did not immediately respond early Tuesday to a request for comment.

At a news conference Saturday, David Clark, president of The Weather Channel, asked viewers to urge Congress to intervene in the business dispute.

The channel is part of the NBC Universal stable of networks and is owned by Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company.

"Yes, it is a privately held company and a for-profit" enterprise, Clark said. "That's OK. What also happens to be true is that we have a mission to serve."

DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said that the satellite service launched its own service, WeatherNation, in response to consumer complaints about the amount of reality programs that The Weather Channel airs instead of weather forecasting.

Local weather information also is available on local network affiliates offered by DirecTV, and during severe weather, the system also makes its emergency channels available for weather programming, he said.

____

AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press


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