Dish Objects to Media General/Young Merger

Letter To FCC Points Out Contentious Retrans Negotiations

A week after filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing Media General of conducting retrans negotiations in bad faith, the satellite giant fired off another letter to the agency Friday, seeking to block the broadcaster’s planned merger with Young Broadcasting.

Media General’s 18 stations in 17 markets have been blacked out to Dish subscribers since Oct. 1 when the two parties could not agree to terms on a new carriage pact. Dish claims that Media General is asking for exorbitant rate increases while the broadcaster stresses it is only seeking fair compensation for its content.

Dish stepped up the acrimony on Oct.18, when it filed a complaint with the FCC, accusing Media General of refusing to negotiate in good faith because it took abount 11 days to respond to its settlement offers.

Now Dish is building on one of the claims in that original complaint – that Media General is 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 -- in its latest beef.

In the Oct. 25 letter, Dish writes that Media General’s insistence that Dish negate the existing Young deal implies that the rate it is paying Young is less than what it would pay Media General. Such negotiations are supposed to be confidential.

“What does Media General know about the Young terms and how does Media General know it?” Dish asked in the letter. “It also raises the important question of whether Media General and Young are coordinating Media General’s negotiations with Dish.”

Dish is requesting the FCC request Media General and Young provide all information regarding their retransmission consent negotiations with Dish, their retrans negotiations strategies and any documents relating to higher retransmission fee expectations as a result of the merger.  

“If this information proves the merger to be primarily a device for achieving higher fees, the Commission should designate it for a hearing,” Dish wrote. “At a minimum, the Commission should condition the proposed merger on baseball-style arbitration and a standstill provision in the event of retransmission impasses.”

In a statement, Media General said the Dish letter "is nothing new and represents a continuation of the meritless claims made in their October 18 complaint."