HITN Off DirecTV’s Hit List

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Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, a Spanish-language public-interest channel, will keep its berth on DirecTV for now after facing the threat of being dropped at the end of this week.

“We have been able to secure continued carriage on DirecTV,” HITN president Jose Luis Rodriguez said. “This basically assures us that HITN has achieved a major milestone. We have passed 20 million households. Based on information that we just got from DirecTV, we estimate that we reach about 22 million.”

DirecTV Monday also confirmed that it would continue to offer HITN at this juncture, declining to offer further details.

Back in April, DirecTV disclosed its plans to drop HITN in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission related to Liberty Media’s proposed $11 billion purchase of News Corp.’s 38.5% stake in the nation’s largest direct-broadcast satellite provider.

HITN is a nonprofit educational and cultural network that DirecTV has offered since August 2004 on its English-language and Spanish-language tiers, on channel 438.

In its FCC filing, DirecTV had said that it would drop HITN at the end of June, likely planning to replace it with another Spanish-language service, multicast channel V-me TV.

But Rodriguez said the DBS provider changed its mind.

“It’s fair to say that we had an opportunity to have a dialog, a very constructive dialog, with DirecTV,” he added. “We were able to show what we are doing and what our plans are, and they were very, very impressed with what they saw. They didn’t have that opportunity before.”

DirecTV plans to start carrying V-me later this year, according to DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer.

The company offers HITN as part of its public-interest obligation as a satellite provider, under federal law, to set aside 4% of its channel capacity exclusively for noncommercial programming of an educational or informational nature.

DirecTV, “after evaluating our content and our plans for the future,” concluded that it was in its best interest to continue maintaining a relationship with HITN,” according to Rodriguez.

In response to DirecTV’s filing in April, Rodriguez back then issued a statement that said, “While the timing of their renewal notice is troubling, we continue to have discussions with DirecTV related to or carriage agreement … The larger issue at stake here is whether independent, unaffiliated, minority-controlled networks have a place in a consolidated media environment. If not, there is no such thing as diversity; it would just be an illusion.”

In addition to DirecTV, HITN has national distribution with EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network, as well as in local markets on Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications and AT&T U-verse TV. It also has a deal with Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV service, and will be added to that lineup shortly.

HITN just debuted a new series about Latina women, Por Arte de Mujer,and it will be launching additional new shows.

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