By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
More than three weeks after a rights dispute blacked out NBC 13 for some local Dish Network companies, the satellite provider and content company Media General continue to spar with no end in sight.
Last week, Dish filed a formal, 21-page complaint alleging Media General “breached its duty to negotiate in good faith” in the weeks since the blackout began on October 1.
Now, Media General has fired back against the filing, saying Dish’s FCC complaint is “meritless,” and that the company will continue to try and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
The blackout began after new terms for a retransmission contract could not be renegotiated between the two companies. The dispute has blocked local access to Birmingham-based WVTM NBC channel 13 for Dish subscribers in and around the Cullman area, along with 16 other markets across the southeast.
In a prepared statement via WNCN, Media General noted this is the first time in the history of the company that it has failed to reach an agreement with a cable or satellite carrier — while noting Dish has been involved in 32 similar disputes over the past three years.
“We have acted in a responsive, courteous and professional manner at all times, have accommodated numerous of DISH's requests and have negotiated in absolute good faith since we began discussions in June — not merely because of any obligation to do so, but because our own standards, and our commitments to our viewers and our communities demand nothing less,” a company spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, DISH would prefer to manufacture a dispute, and now ask for government intervention, for its own purposes, rather than pay us a fair, market-based rate for the value of our stations.”
In statements before and after the blackout began, both sides have blamed the other for failing to agree on a new rate. Channel blackouts have become more common than ever in recent years, and Dish customers in Cullman were affected by a similar incident earlier this year.
With the blackout now on its 23rd day, this dispute seems to be the longest in recent memory to affect the area.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.