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Dish Subs Lose Tegna Stations in Retrans Fight

Dish Network subscribers are no longer receiving signals from stations owned by Tegna via satellite because of a retransmission consent rate dispute.

Dish said 38 markets in 33 states an the District of Columbia were affected. One station still on satellite was  WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C., where an extension was granted so that residents could continue to receive information on flooding in the area.

The two sides pointed fingers at each other for causing the blackout.

“With Dish willing to grant an extension and a retroactive true-up on rates, Tegna had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish senior VP of programming. “Instead, Tegna chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips.”

“Tegna has worked hard over the course of months to reach a deal with Dish. Our position has been simple: the same fundamental terms that allowed us to reach deals with distributors nationwide should serve as the basis for our deal with Dish, Tegna said in a statement.

“Rather than accepting that fair, market-based approach, Dish has refused to reach an agreement and once again is preventing its customers from accessing valued channels, even as customers continue to pay for that content. Despite Dish repeated efforts to blame programmers, the record is crystal clear – Dish is a serial dropper of channels. It has been responsible for the largest broadcast blackout in history and routinely drops valued cable and broadcast channels. Tegna, on the other hand, has never been in this position before because we have always been able to reach fair agreements with distributors without disrupting our viewers,” the Tegna statement said.

Dish said that it and Tegna had been making progress in the negotiations. “In that spirit, Dish offered a short-term contract extension to Tegna that would include a retroactive true-up when new rates were agreed upon, and would preserve the ability of Dish customers to access the Tegna local stations while negotiations continued. The true-up would ensure that Tegna was made whole at the new rates for the period of any contract extension,” according to Dish. “We are actively working to negotiate an agreement that promptly returns this content to DISH’s programming lineup,” Dish’s Schlichting said.

Dish also used the blackout as to call for government action.

“Tegna’s decision to cut ties with Dish customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts,” said R. Stanton Dodge, Dish executive VP and general counsel. “Broadcasters like Tegna use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve.”

Broadcasters currently prevent pay-TV companies from temporarily substituting an out-of-market station during a local broadcaster blackout. This leaves consumers in the dark and leaves pay-TV companies powerless to serve their customers, the Dish executive said.

“Actions like these are precisely the reason that Congress has mandated, and the FCC has started, a formal process to investigate negotiating tactics that use innocent consumers as bargaining chips,” said Dodge

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.