Media General Goes Dark to Dish Customers

Media General said a midnight deadline to reach a retransmission consent agreement with Dish Network has passed without a deal, causing the media company’s 18 stations in 10 states to go dark to the satellite giant’s customers in those areas.

Media General owns two stations in Alabama (WVTM-NBC in Birmingham, and WKRG-TV in Mobile); one in Florida (WFLA-NBC) in Tampa; three in Georgia (WJBF-ABC in Augusta, WRBL-CBS in Columbus and WSAV-NBC in Savannah); two in Mississippi (WHLT-CBS in Hattiesburg and WJTV-CBS in Jackson); three in North Carolina (WNCT-CBS in Greenville, WNCN-NBC in Raleigh-Durham and WYCW-CW in Asheville); three in South Carolina (WCBD-NBC in Charleston, WBTW-CBS in Florence/Myrtle Beach and WSPA-CBS in Greenville Spartanburg). Rounding out its station holdings are WJAR-NBC in Providence, R.I.; WJHL-CBS in the Tri-Cities, Tenn.; WCNH-NBC in Columbus, Ohio; and WSLS-NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg, Va.

On its WNCN website, general manager Douglas Hamilton said the station’s agreement with Dish expired at midnight and that by law Dish cannot carry certain local television stations owned, operated or serviced by Media General Inc. on its satellite system.

"Our highly-rated television station is an important asset to our local community and it is unfortunate that Dish does not recognize our fair market value," Hamilton said in a statement. “Although we have successfully completed agreements with other cable and satellite operators, Dish has refused to reach a similar agreement.”

Media General's retrans agreement originally expired in June, but Media General extended negotiations for 90 days. In a statement, Dish said Media General rejected its request for a second extension until Media General is acquired by Young Broadcasting, a  broadcaster with which Dish already has an existing retrans agreement. That deal that is expected to be completed later this year.

"We’ve attempted to reach a fair agreement via many avenues, but Media General remains immovable in its demands,” said Sruta Vootukuru, Dish director of programming in a statement. “They declined a contract extension, an offer from Dish to pay our competitors’ rates, and have now refused our willingness to match rates paid to other area broadcasters. Media General is overreaching by trying to force Dish customers to pay more than their neighbors.”

The station added that Dish customers could still enjoy Media General programming either via over-the-air antenna or by switching pay TV providers.