Three broadcast stations in Central Wyoming were still dark to Dish Network subscribers Tuesday after being pulled from customers on Dec. 31.
The stations, KTWO (ABC), KGWC (CBS) and KFNB (Fox) in Casper, Wyo., went dark on Dec. 31 after the stations could not reach a retransmission consent agreement with Dish.
All three stations were pulled by their owners -- Silverton Broadcasting, Mark III Media and Wyomedia Corp. -- which Dish has accused of making "outrageous rate demands," according to a published report.
"Dish made numerous attempts to avoid interruption of service to our valued customers including offering an extension," the satellite giant said in a statement that was posted on each channel, according to K2 Radio, a radio station in central Wyoming not involved in the dispute. "This offer was flatly refused. Dish Network remained available to negotiate over the holiday weekend but the station, unconcerned about its viewers, refused to even answer the phone."
Mark III Media Secretary and Treasurer Mark Nalbone had a different account of negotiations, adding in an e-mail note that the station had notified Dish of its intention to seek retansmission consent in September, which he claimed the satellite giant did not acknowledge until mid-December, and only then with a few e-mail communications with unreasonable offers. Real negotiations did not commence until Dec. 31, and when the station requested an extension, Nalbone said Dish sent an unclear reply. On New Year's Day, he discovered the stations were no longer on Dish.
"We are in two of the very smallest markets -- 196 out of about 210," Nalbone said in an e-mail message. "Dish Network is a national powerhouse giant that is trying to squeeze the little guy."
Nalbone continued that the stations have not had an increase in rates in three years, despite rate increases for Dish customers And he concluded that his station's request amounts to about 1% of an average Dish customer's total bill.
Dish did manage to hammer out a retrans pact with three stations in the Columbus/Tupelo. Miss., market - Southern Broadcasting's WKDH (ABC); Lingard Broadcasting Corp.'s WLOV (Fox) and WTVA Inc.'s WTVA (NBC) - after being dark for about 24 hours.
"We're happy to tell you that Southern Broadcasting, Lingard Broadcasting Corporation, and WTVA Inc., the owners of your local stations and Dish Network have come to an agreement that removes the block on your local programming," Dish said on its www.fairsatellite.com website. "We appreciate the overwhelming support we received from our customers during this time."
Dish also avoided a blackout in its Ft. Meyers, Fla., and Charlottesville, Va., markets, reaching deals with four channels owned by Waterman Broadcasting and Montclair Communications - WBBH (NBC) and WZVN (ABC) in Ft. Meyers and WVIR (NBC Channel 29.1) and WVIR (CW Channel 29.3) in Charlottesville.