Dish Network has asked the Federal Communications Commission to move "without delay" to certify that it should be allowed back into the business of delivering distant signals, saying its single TV station critic is off base.
As part of the reauthorization by Congress of the law that provides a blanket license for satellite carriers to deliver those distant signals, Dish had to agree to deliver local TV station signals to the remaining handful of markets (a little over two dozen), where it has been economically unfeasible to deliver them if it wanted to get back into the distant signal business.
Dish has been out of the business of delivering out-of-market versions of affiliated network TV stations to subscribers that cannot receive a viewable version of their local affiliate since a court found the satellite operator was not
accurately identifying who qualified for the signals and enjoined it from delivering them.
In reply comments filed at the FCC, Dish pointed out that only one out of`1,782 stations in the country objected to
certifying it as a qualified carrier. WMDT-TV Salisbury, Md. argued that the DBS provider was still not delivering any commercial stations to the market, having only tried to strike carriage deals with the stations a few days before the June 3 date for delivering local signals but failing to reach agreements.
Dish countered in its reply comments that it has launched the local PBS affiliate, WCPB-TV, there under must-carry,
but that it is not required to carry any stations that have elected, but have yet to grant, retransmission consent. Dish concedes it has not launched either of the commercial stations in the market, which account for four network affiliations (WMDT is ABC, with a CW multicast stream; WBOC-TV is CBS with a Fox multicast affiliation).
However, the satellite operator maintains that not only is it not required by the STELA [Satellite Television Extension and Localist Act] mandate to carry those stations absent an agreement, but that copyright law prohibits it from doing so. Dish is required by law to negotiate "in good faith," which it says it has done. It also said it provided "timely
notice" (on Feb. 19) that it would be delivering local signals in the market.
Although Dish says negotiations continue to be cordial, WMDT licensee Delmarva sees it differently.
"There was some negotiation toward a retransmission agreement for carriage over the nine business days up to June 3," it said in its filing, "but no agreement was reached. Efforts since that time by Delmarva's counsel, to foster further discussion toward an agreement, including as recently as last week, have not been responded to by Dish."
"The almost total lack of objection to Dish's qualified carrier certification application from the country's
broadcast community speaks volumes," Dish wrote in its comments, asking the FCC to certify it ASAP. "Dish has met the statutory requirements for qualified carrier status under STELA and respectfully requests that the Commission certify that fact promptly."
Separately, Dish is challenging the STELA mandate that it carry all noncommercial stations' HD signals by the end of next year rather than the FCC's end-of-2013 timetable. But the DBS provider also struck deals by July 27 with 30 noncom stations to carry their HD feeds, which the bill stipulates exempts it from that expedited timetable.