An ongoing programming dispute means that local DirecTV customers may lose some local programming, including NewsChannel 9. (Photo: Staff)

Leaders of Sinclair Broadcast Group—which owns local ABC affiliate NewsChannel 9—and DirecTV are in the midst of a programming dispute, which may mean the satellite TV company will drop all of Sinclair's channels. 

"Sinclair Broadcast Group recently began informing its viewers that it does not expect DirecTV to continue to carry any of Sinclair’s stations after the existing carriage agreement terminates on Feb. 28," Sinclair leaders said in a prepared statement. "Although DirecTV and Sinclair have been negotiating for quite some time in an effort to reach a new agreement, at this time, it does not appear that these efforts will be successful." 

DirecTV leaders updated their statement Thursday, saying that Sinclair leaders are being alarmists and that customers should know that programming won't be disrupted. 

"We're engaged in productive discussions with Sinclair Broadcast Group to retain their local stations in the DirecTV lineup," according to DirecTV's statement. 

If the two don't reach an agreement, DirecTV customers in 47 markets, including Chattanooga, will lose Sinclair programming.

Providers like DirecTV must pay retransmission fees to broadcasters, such as Sinclair.

The dispute is over how much DirecTV will pay Sinclair for ABC programming. 

"We will compensate Sinclair fairly, but our customers should not be forced to pay more than twice as much for the same programs that remain free to watch over the air and online," DirecTV leaders said in their statement.

But Sinclair leaders said that local television stations, such as Channel 9, pay millions each year to buy high-quality programming and to produce local news.

"It is just standard business practice that the satellite companies should pay for the right to resell programming to their subscribers," according to Sinclair's statement. 

Meanwhile, EPB leaders are taking the opportunity to let DirecTV customers know that they can move to EPB if the satellite provider eliminates the channels. 

"If DirecTV does drop Sinclair Broadcast Group stations, like Chattanooga ABC affiliate WTVC, from retransmission on their satellites, then we want satellite TV viewers affected in the EPB service area to know they can get complete local and national programming with EPB Fiber Optics," EPB spokesman John Pless said in an email. 

In November 2011, there was a similar dispute between Sarkes Tarzian, the parent company of local NBC affiliate WRCB, and Dish Network.