Dish Asks FCC To Intervene in Media General Dispute

Satellite Giant Wants Agency to Require Broadcaster to Negotiate in Good Faith

Dish Network has taken its retransmission consent battle with Media General to the next level, asking the Federal Communications Commission to intervene and require the broadcaster to negotiate in good faith.

Media General stations in 17 markets went dark to Dish subscribers on Oct. 1 after the parties could not reach a deal. Dish had asked the broadcaster to continue to provide its signal to Dish subscribers during negotiations, as well as waiting until Media General’s planned merger with Young Broadcasting is completed. Dish already has an existing retrans agreement with Young.

In the FCC filing, Dish claims that Media General did not respond to its last pre-blackout offer for 11 days and has yet to respond to Dish’s subsequent counter offer made seven days ago.

“Dish customers and Media General viewers were without their shows and events for 11 days before Media General would even contact us,” said Dish executive vice president Dave Shull in a statement. “We reacted with a counter offer within hours and Media General has yet to respond.  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.”

 In addition, Dish says that Media General is now requiring that Dish reopen its existing agreement with Young with a new entity – New Young Broadcasting Holdings – as a condition of Media General signing an agreement with the satellite giant.

Dish claims in the filing that Media General’s 11-day response time to its pre-blackout offer enough to show the broadcaster is negotiating in bad faith.

“There could not be clearer evidence of bad faith than when a broadcaster post-blackout refuses to even negotiate,” Dish said in the filing.

According to Dish, Media General had given Dish two options – dissolve the exiting Young agreement and pay a set price for the Young and Media General stations combined, or reach a deal for just the Media General stations at a price that was equal to the charges they would entail, including the Young stations. Dish said in the filing that the latter option would rep[resent a 500%  increase to the fees they were previously paying to Media General.

Dish is asking the agency to force Media General to submit to third party mediation to ensure good faith negotiations.

In a statement, Media General said it has acted in a professional, responsive and courteous manner in its negotiations with Dish, dating back to ther initial talks in June. The broadcaster added that it has always negotiated in good faith with the satellite giant, adding that it has accommodated numerous Dish requests during those talks. 

"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 continued in the statement. "Despite Dish's mertiless request for government intervention, Media General will continue to negotiate in good faith so that we can return our stations to the Dish service for those viewers who remain Dish subscribers."

News of the Dish FCC filing comes on the heels of an announcement that it has reached a long-term retrans agreement with Gray TV for stations in 30 markets across the country.  Terms of that deal were not disclosed.