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Dish and Sinclair end blackout; reach a deal “in principle”

After a day of brinksmanship, Dish and Sinclair Broadcast Group reached an agreement in principle for the retransmission of Sinclair’s TV stations.

As part of the deal, the parties agreed to a two-week extension to document the agreement.

No other details were provided.

The agreement ends a short, single-day blackout of 129 TV stations in 79 markets affecting more than 5 million Dish subscribers.

“We are pleased to announce that we were able to come to an agreement in principle with Dish, and we regret any inconvenience that was caused to the Dish subscribers as a result of the short blackout,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair’s executive vice president, general counsel and chief negotiator.

Negotiations broke down nine days after the parties extended the carriage deal that expired August 15.

Earlier on Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, responding to a complaint filed by Dish, called an “emergency meeting” to bring the two parties together. The FCC recently initiated a Congressionally-mandated rule making to review what constitutes “good faith” negotiations in retransmission consent negotiations.

With the agreement, Dish asked the FCC to stay action on its complaint while the long-term agreement is being finalized.

“We are grateful for the FCC’s work on behalf of consumers to actively broker a productive path forward,” said Jeff Blum, Dish senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

What affect Wheeler may have had on the course of negotiations isn’t clear. But Wheeler’s call for an emergency meeting was an aggressive move that departed from the more quiet, back-room arm-twisting usually employed by the commission. The FCC doesn’t have direct, statutory authority to compel any agreement, but Wheeler ominously invoked the “public interest” in his statement, a regulatory blank check Wheeler hasn’t been afraid to wield.

Wheeler said he was “pleased” that the Dish and Sinclair came to an agreement. “The FCC will remain vigilant while the negotiations continue,” Wheeler said.