UPDATED: After a period of relative quiet in — and no resolution to — the dispute between Dish TV and local broadcaster Tegna, the satellite provider filed a “bad faith” complaint against Tegna today with the Federal Communications Commission.
“Tegna turned its back on its public interest obligation and failed to engage in good faith retransmission consent negotiations with Dish,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish SVP of Programming. “Tegna’s demands were both unreasonable and inconsistent. This behavior negatively impacts Dish subscribers, and we expect Tegna’s bad behavior to only get worse as the programmer looks to sell its stations to the highest bidder. As a result, we have filed a formal complaint with the FCC to address Tegna’s blatant disregard of the Commission’s rules.”
The complaint alleges that Tegna was “appearing to demand” Dish pay for all subscribers in a local market, even those who do not purchase local programming.
Tegna fired back at midday by calling the FCC complaint “utterly baseless and without merit.” It called out Direct TV for “transparent PR stunts.”
The local programer’s statement continued, “The real issue at hand is the need for Dish to stop short-changing their customers by serially dropping valued stations and instead reach fair, market-based deals with programmers like Tegna.
“The unfortunate reality is that Dish dropped more than 230 channels last year alone and is now repeating that pattern by refusing to reach an agreement with Tegna, depriving its customers nationwide of some of the most valued programming on TV.”
PREVIOUSLY on October 7: On Wednesday, Tegna Inc. removed its local stations from nearly 3 million Dish TV customers in 53 markets across the country, the satellite provider announced. Dish maintained that “The programmer is using customers as negotiation leverage, demanding a massive fee increase to nearly a billion dollars and holding viewers hostage during football season.”
Brian Neylon, group president of Dish TV, said his company made “a fair offer” to Tegna which, according to its web site owns 64 news brands in 51 markets. He said the broadcaster is “demanding we pay for 100% of our subscribers in their markets, regardless of whether these subscribers receive or want Tegna’s programming.”
In response, Tegna issued the following statement to Deadline on Thursday:
Dish has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us based on the competitive terms we’ve used to reach deals with numerous other providers that reflect the current market. While Dish is one of our smaller distributors, we regret any inconvenience for any of our customers, and hope that Dish will come back to the table to get a deal done to return our valuable programming to their system.
Neylon contended that the fee increase is part of the local broadcaster’s plan to appeal to suitors. “Tegna is looking to sell its stations to the highest bidder,” he said.
The company did announce on September 21 that it “recently received acquisition proposals,” promising that “the Board will carefully review and evaluate these proposals.”
Among those bidders were said to be Byron Allen’s group, along with Apollo Global Management and Standard General with an $8 billion offer. Allen made an $8.5 billion bid for the broadcaster in 2020.
The current dustup follows an apology from Tegna CEO Dave Lougee earlier this year over his racially insensitive actions toward a former Federal Communications Commission official.
Another thing the broadcaster’s social media accounts revealed was customer dissatisfaction. A Facebook user named Andrea Moran wrote the following in the comments of an unrelated post: “Stop holding consumers hostage while your company and Dish hash out a deal! You are forcing me to other news and programs. I may like them better and not come back.”
In 2015, Tegna pulled its stations from Dish in 38 markets over a similar dispute. The blackout lasted three days before a deal was reached.
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