Dish Network Inc. filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Communications Commission against Media General Inc., claiming the Richmond-based broadcaster has failed to negotiate in good faith regarding fees.
Media General blocked programming on Oct. 1 to Dish customers in 17 markets after a retransmission fee contract expired and the two companies failed to come to an agreement.
In Friday's complaint, Dish asked the FCC to intervene and immediately require Media General to negotiate. It claims Media General failed to respond for 11 days to Dish's last pre-blackout offer.
"This is the first time in the history of our company that Media General has failed to reach an agreement with a cable operator or satellite carrier," Media General said in a statement.
"Dish, in contrast, has been involved in 32 take-down disputes with local broadcasters in the past three years alone, affecting more than 120 local television stations," the company stated, adding that Dish is currently involved in two other disputes in addition to the one with Media General.
Media General claims it has acted in a responsive, courteous and professional manner at all times, and it has negotiated in good faith since discussions began in June.
"Unfortunately, Dish would prefer to manufacture a dispute, and now ask for government intervention, for its own purposes, rather than pay us a fair, market-based rate for the value of our stations."
Media General does not own any television stations in the Richmond market but owns NBC affiliate WSLS in Roanoke.
Media General is in the process of merging with Nashville, Tenn.-based New Young Broadcasting. That deal is expected to close this fall and will add 12 stations to Media General's portfolio, including WRIC in Richmond.
The previous contract between Colorado-based Dish Network and Media General was set to expire June 30. The companies extended the deadline for 90 days but still failed to come to an agreement.
The broadcaster's stations went dark to Dish customers at midnight Oct.1.
Dish Network claims that Media General rejected Dish's offer to match rates paid by primary pay-TV competitors and declined to receive the same rates that Dish pays to other area broadcasters.
"Dish customers and Media General viewers were without their shows and events for 11 days before Media General would even contact us," Dish Executive Vice President Dave Shull said in a statement.
"We reacted with a counter offer within hours and Media General has yet to respond," Shull said. "Dish is asking the FCC to act expeditiously to address Media General's bad faith, push them back to the negotiating table and submit to mediation to get programming back to consumers."
Dish Network's customers in the Richmond area had their access to NBC affiliate WWBT blocked on Aug. 1, when Dish and WWBT owner Raycom Media couldn't agree on a retransmission contract.
The companies came to agreement 10 days later, and Raycom restored access to its stations to Dish customers in 36 U.S. markets.
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