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Lifetime Gets Some Black Caucus Backing

Lifetime has enlisted the help of Congress in its fight to gain back carriage of its networks on EchoStar’s Dish network.
Eleven women members of the Congressional Black Caucus, all Democratic representatives, have sent a letter to Dish CEO Charlie Ergen urging him, in the name of diversity, to bring back the two Lifetime networks that Dish dropped amidst a contract dispute Dec. 31. The members included Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), Diane Watson (D-Calif.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.).

According to the CBC’s letter, by not carrying the networks, the satellite service “will further diminish the already inadequate diversity of channels and programming available to American viewers.”
The letter says Lifetime’s programs focus on “important issues facing Americans daily, including breast cancer awareness, equal pay for women, and violence against women.” Caucus members ask Ergen to reestablish his relationship with Lifetime, although they say they are “not familiar with the business considerations” involved in the carriage negotiation.

Lifetime said it had ceased carriage negotiations with EchoStar last week, which meant Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network are still absent from Dish, which serves 12 million subscribers. According to Lifetime, EchoStar won’t budge from its demand to cut license fees up to 33%, while EchoStar counters that Lifetime is asking for a large increase in fees.

EchoStar recently sent a letter to Lifetime offering to carry the network on an à la carte basis. The network would be free to subscribers and EchoStar would pay Lifetime per subscriber at the last rate Lifetime proposed. An EchoStar representative said Lifetime declined that offer.
“We believe when [the congresswomen] understand the facts, they will see this is about economics and not women’s issues,” said a Dish spokesperson, who had not yet seen the CBC’s letter. “Once again, Lifetime is negotiating through politics.”
As for the women’s groups that had run public service announcements on Lifetime, Dish has offered them time on the more than 12 women’s networks it currently offers, said the Dish spokesperson. The company has already begun receiving submissions from these groups, whose PSAs would run as interstitials, free of charge.The 43-member caucus works to address “the legislative concerns of black and minority citizens,” according to its web site.