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Dish's dispute continues with Media General, which wants the satellite company to pay more.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Media General and Dish Network have made little progress in their contract dispute that has kept a Roanoke television station off the air for thousands of viewers.
The two sides have been at an impasse for months over a new contract that would allow Dish to continue carrying Media General stations, which include Roanoke’s WSLS-TV (Channel 10). Dish has not been allowed to carry those stations since Sept. 30, when the previous agreement expired.
Talks do not appear to have gone any better since then. This week, Dish moved Chicago-based station WGN into Channel 10’s spot, even though the satellite company already offered WGN at Channel 239.
Dish has also taken its cause to the streets and to the air, literally.
According to the website www.richmondbizsense.com, Dish sent a small airplane to fly over Media General’s Richmond headquarters on Tuesday. The plane circled repeatedly while towing a banner that read “Media General, give me my TV!” A week earlier, the satellite company parked a truck bearing another sign near Media General’s offices. That sign read, “Media General execs want a 500% increase in rates.”
Dish executives have said publicly that Media General is asking for exorbitant increases to carry its stations in 18 markets. They say those increases will eventually be passed along to customers in the form of higher monthly subscription rates.
Leesa Wilcher, general manager for Channel 10, said that Media General is only asking for market value for its programming.
“Dish statements are very misleading,” Wilcher said. “Dish has not been paying anything near fair value for our station. All we are asking is [for] a few pennies a day.”
Wilcher said that local stations receive less money from Dish than cable channels receive.
“Local television stations, such as WSLS, are by far the most popular programming channels available,” Wilcher said. “Yet we receive a much smaller rate for our valuable channel than far less popular cable channels such as TNT.”
The negotiations are at the corporate level between Media General and Dish. Channel 10’s bosses are not involved in the talks. Wilcher said that her station has received countless calls the past few weeks from viewers who are upset that Channel 10 is no longer on Dish.
Dish customers also have complained to the satellite company. Some have even gotten favors in return for their complaints.
Gary Venable, a Dish customer in Bedford County just outside of Vinton, said that when he called Dish this week to complain about the loss of Channel 10, he was offered a free digital antenna from the company. An antenna allows a viewer to receive Channel 10’s over-the-air digital signal.
“I talked to a Dish customer service representative in Phoenix, Arizona, and told her I wanted an antenna and she said she’d send one out Friday,” Venable said. “I didn’t want to go back to cable, but a lot of Dish people are upset that they can’t get answers from anybody.”
Not everyone who complains will get a reward, however, according to Dish spokeswoman Danielle Johnson.
“We work with customers on an individual basis to identify options that meet their viewing needs,” Johnson wrote in an email.
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