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Dish Objects to Media General/Young Merger

Dish network has opened a second front in its retrans battle with Media General, telling the FCC it objects to the merger of Media General and Young Broadcasting, at least without investigation and possible conditions.

Dish, which is currently in a retrans fight with Media General, told the commission in a letter that Media General is attempting to extend its retrans terms to the Young stations even before their deal with Young is done, which could be a violation of FCC rules, it says.

Media General stations went dark on Dish Oct. 1 after the parties could not reach a deal.

Dish says that Media General informed it that it would not agree to a deal unless the terms extended to Young stations upon the merger's consumation, which suggests the Young terms are not as good, which raises questions about what information was exchanged between the two companies, it says.

Dish wants the FCC to look into communications regarding retrans negotiations with Dish, designate the deal for hearing if it finds anything untoward, and if that is the case, at least condition the deal on baseball-style arbitration and standstill provisions similar to the conditions in the Comcast/NBCU deal.

As a member of the American Television Alliance, Dish has been pushing the FCC to make standstills and arbitration the law of the land.

Dish last week filed a complaint against Media General alleging it was not negotiating in good faith.

Media General and Young announced in June they were planning to merge, which would create a group consisting of 32 full-power and 17 low-power TV stations. The FCC will need to extend waivers of its multiple ownership rules in three markets. The deal will not require a waiver of the newspaper-TV cross-ownership rule because Berkshire Hathaway, which owns newspapers in some Media General markets, would not have an attributable interest in Media General after the merger.

A Media General spokesperson had not returned a call for comment at press time.