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October 19, 2013

Dish asks for FCC intervention as NBC blackout stretches on

With the blackout affecting local Dish Network customers dragging toward the end of its third week, the satellite company is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step in and resolve a lingering dispute with Media General.

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.

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.

“Media General’s conduct violates the Commission’s rules requiring good faith negotiation for retransmission consent rights, because, among other things, Media General failed to respond for 11 days to DISH’s last pre-blackout offer,” Dish claims in the legal complaint.

Dish officials claim Media General has been slow to respond to potential offers and counter-offers to resolve the issue

“DISH customers and Media General viewers were without their shows and events for 11 days before Media General would even contact us,” DISH executive vice president Dave Shull said . “We reacted with a counter offer within hours and Media General has yet to respond. DISH is asking the FCC to act expeditiously to address Media General’s bad faith, push them back to the negotiating table and submit to mediation to get programming back to consumers.”

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 blackout earlier this year.

With the blackout now on its 19th day, this dispute seems to be the longest in recent memory to affect the area.

Officials with Media General have yet to issue a response.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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