About a day after its 129 broadcast stations went dark and mere hours after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler called for an emergency meeting to reach an end to their dispute, Dish Network and Sinclair Broadcast Group said they have reached an agreement and that restoration of the Sinclair signals to Dish subscribers is underway.
In a statement, Dish and Sinclair said they have agreed to a short-term extension on their existing retrans agreement as they finalize negotiations. The parties say they have reached an agreement in principal for the stations in 79 markets across the country.
“We are grateful for the FCC’s work on behalf of consumers to actively broker a productive path forward,” said Jeff Blum, Dish senior vice president and deputy general counsel in a statement.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Sinclair pulled its signals on Aug. 25, after a short extension expired and the two parties could not reach an agreement. Dish had claimed it had come to an agreement on pricing for Sinclair’s stations, but that the broadcaster was demanding the satellite giant negotiate carriage for an unnamed cable channel Sinclair hoped to own. Dish also ad filed a complaint with the FCC, claiming Sinclair was not negotiating in good faith. As part of its new deal, Dish is asking the FCC to stay action on the complaint as its long-term agreement is being finalized.
“On behalf of more than 5 million consumers nationwide, I am pleased Dish and Sinclair have agreed to end one of the largest blackouts in history and extend their negotiations. The FCC will remain vigilant while the negotiations continue,” said Wheeler on news of the news.
The chairman also trumpeted the tentative agreement and the FCC's role in pressing for resolution. "Today the most extensive retransmission blackout in history ended," he Tweeted, followed by: "The FCC will remain vigilant. Use of the public airwaves is a public trust."
"We are pleased to see that five million Dish subscribers are again able to access their local news and programming and most-watched network entertainment and live sporting events with the agreement reached this evening by Sinclair and Dish," said Rob Kenny of TVFreedom.org, a broadcaster-backed advocate for the retrans system. "Local TV newscasts, severe weather updates and emergency alerts and warnings are important to viewers and something they value and rely on daily."
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