Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

AT&T will lodge a formal complaint with regulators against television station owners that, the company says, are refusing to negotiate terms for channels to be carried by its subsidiary DirecTV, resulting in blackouts for viewers.

Why it matters: The Federal Communications Commission generally does not intervene in private negotiations between programmers and the pay-TV stations that carry their content. But regulators could get involved when there are claims, as AT&T is making here, that parties are acting in bad faith.

The details, according to a filing obtained by Axios:

  • AT&T's complaint is against 9 station owners with channels around the country, including network affiliates in places like Flint, Mich., and Mobile, Ala.
  • The channels have been unavailable on DirecTV and, AT&T said, ”in the midst of ongoing customer blackouts, the Station Groups still refuse to negotiate agreements that would permit AT&T to resume retransmission of these stations to customers across the country.”
  • “Notably, the ostensibly independent Station Groups all have deep ties to Sinclair [Broadcast Group],” said AT&T in its FCC complaint.

The big picture: There have been a number of disputes over the terms on which pay-TV providers like DirecTV or Comcast carry channels, a result of a television market that’s getting tighter as more people cut the cord.

  • AT&T itself almost blacked out Viacom channels earlier this year, before the two companies settled their dispute.
  • The alleged Sinclair connection is notable because the FCC previously effectively killed a proposed purchase of Tribune stations by the broadcaster, known for a conservative bent.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 30,199,007 — Total deaths: 946,490— Total recoveries: 20,544, 967Map
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 6,675,593 — Total deaths: 197,644 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 90,710,730Map
  3. Politics: Former Pence aide says she plans to vote for Joe Biden, accusing Trump of costing lives in his coronavirus response.
  4. Health: Pew: 49% of Americans wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine if available today Pandemic may cause cancer uptick The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine — COVID-19 racial disparities extend to health coverage losses.
  5. Business: Retail sales return to pre-coronavirus trend.
Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Mike Bloomberg's anti-chaos theory

CNN's Anderson Cooper questions Joe Biden last night at a drive-in town hall in Moosic, Pa., outside Scranton. Photo: CNN

Mike Bloomberg's $100 million Florida blitz begins today and will continue "wall to wall" in all 10 TV markets through Election Day, advisers tell me.

Why it matters: Bloomberg thinks that Joe Biden putting away Florida is the most feasible way to head off the national chaos we could have if the outcome of Trump v. Biden remained uncertain long after Election Day.

Biden's hardline Russia reset

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Mark Reinstein

When he talks about Russia, Joe Biden has sounded like Ronald Reagan all summer, setting up a potential Day 1 confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Biden were to win.

Why it matters: Biden has promised a forceful response against Russia for both election interference and alleged bounty payments to target American troops in Afghanistan. But being tougher than President Trump could be the easy part. The risk is overdoing it and making diplomacy impossible.