Youngstown Station Goes Dark on Dish


Dish Network said Friday that Youngstown, Ohio NBC-affiliate WFMJ has gone dark to its customers in that region after the parties could not reach a retransmission consent agreement.
Dish claims that it has been in negotiations with WFMJ for months, but would not bend to its demands for a more than 250% increase in rates.
"We are disappointed that WFMJ has chosen to be so unreasonable in their demands, because we know a significant number of Dish customers enjoy getting their local news, sports and weather on the NBC affiliate," said Dish vice president of programming Andrew LeCuyer in a statement. "Essentially, they are taking our customers hostage in these negotiations. We hope WFMJ will soon become more reasonable so we can resume broadcast of this channel on Dish."
WFMJ is owned by the Maag family, which also owns the city's major local daily newspaper, the Vindicator.
In a statement, WFMJ general manager Jack Grdic said he was "disappointed" that the two parties could not reach an agreement.
"We have been negotiating with Dish for several months and have agreed to extend the old agreement several times," Grdic continued. "We made a last-ditch effort to avoid a service interruption this morning by substantially revising our offer in Dish's favor. But Dish did not make a counterproposal. Instead, Dish chose to let the old agreement expire."
In an e-mail message Grdic wrote that Dish's claims WFMJ is demanding a 250% rate increase is disingenuous, adding that the satellite giant has been paying the station a pittance for years.
"The market has changed dramatically in the last several years," Grdic wrote. "Our rates are consistent with the market, and we are not willing to give huge discounts to Dish when other providers they compete with are paying market rates. We don't think that's fair to our other distribution partners, and we don't think it's fair to local viewers. We invest heavily in local news and in other high value programming. To keep doing that, we have to get a fair return when other companies re-sell our signals for a profit."