Sinclair Broadcast Group pointed the finger back at Dish for the blackout of 129 TV stations in 79 markets after the two parties failed to agree on the terms for a new retransmission consent deal.
As soon as the blackout was imminent, Dish fired off two press releases, accusing Sinclair of initiating “the largest local channel blackout in the history of television,” and intentionally “exploiting” Dish customers to gain negotiating leverage. Dish’s second release “renewed” Dish’s complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in the dispute because Sinclair “failed to negotiate in good faith.”
Throughout the dispute and the 9-day contract extension, Sinclair has declined comment, until now. In a statement, Sinclair chalks up Dish’s public statements as spin and part of a campaign to convince regulators of the need for retransmission consent reform.
“Dish, which is reported to have engaged in more recent station blackouts than any other MVPD, is simply trying to spin the facts in an apparent effort to make a political statement,” said Barry Faber, executive vice president and general counsel for Sinclair.
“While Sinclair, unlike Dish, is not interested in negotiating this transaction in the press, Sinclair remains willing to negotiate a fair deal with Dish. In addition, we would be open to doing an extension if Dish was not simply asserting take it or leave it positions. In the end, this is simply a commercial business transaction in which the parties unfortunately were not able to agree on terms,” Faber added.
Dish was one of the three pay TV providers the National Association of Broadcasters has branded as “bad actors” that are ginning up blackouts just as the FCC opens up a rule making to define “good faith” practices in retransmission consent negotiations.
In the past year, Dish has been involved in four of 13 retrans disputes, including blackouts with CBS, Morgan Murphy Media, and Media General. Since 2012, Dish has been a party to 33 of 75 (almost half) of retransmission consent disputes.
The blackout has become the latest cause celebre for the American Television Alliance, of which Dish is a member. “You can’t make this stuff up. If this mushroom cloud doesn’t compel Congress and the FCC to fix this unfair system, what will?” said Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the ATVA.