Tribune Media just nixed Dish Network’s proposal to resolve their carriage contract dispute via baseball-style arbitration. But it has a counterproposal: Let FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s office monitor the discussions with daily joint calls.
“Doing so will make abundantly clear to the FCC and the public that it is Tribune Media, not Dish, that is negotiating in good faith to obtain an agreement at current market rates,” Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman says.
The broadcaster also renewed its offer to extend the previous contract — and restore carriage of its 42 TV stations and WGN America — to the end of August, just before the new prime time season begins.
Since Sunday about 5 million of Dish’s satellite customers have been unable to see Tribune stations, and about 7 million unable to watch WGNA.
Dish says it objects to Tribune’s “significant price increases” for its stations. In addition, Dish says that Tribune wants to “force bundle” them with WGNA — which the satellite distributor calls “an unrelated and low-performing cable channel.”
Tribune says that it’s offering terms that are consistent with other deals it has made — but Dish hasn’t negotiated in good faith.
What about Dish’s proposal this morning to engage in baseball arbitration — where a mediator decides contract terms from each party’s last, best offers?
This morning Dish EVP of Programming Warren Schlichting said that “we want to return these local stations to our customers immediately, and binding, baseball-style arbitration offers a path to reach a fair deal and to serve the best interests of our customers.” .
But Weitman says that arbitration “is an expensive substitute for the negotiating process set up by Congress and Dish has a history of walking away from arbitration when the outcome goes against it.”
The No. 2 satellite company likes to “subvert the process when they lose by refusing to follow the arbitrator’s ruling,” he adds. “This is exactly what happened when they requested binding arbitration with NBCU/Comcast in 2010. In that instance, Dish took Comcast SportsNet California off the air when they lost the arbitration, leaving millions of viewers in the dark.”
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