Dish, Sinclair prevent 'largest blackout' in extension of retrans talks



| 17 August 2015

Aiming to prevent what would be one of the largest TV blackouts in US retransmission consent history, Dish Network and Sinclair Broadcast Group have agreed to a short-term contract extension as they hammer out a deal.

The current agreement was set to expire on 16 August, and the days and weeks before expiry witnessed an ugly war of words between the two parties. Sinclair had threatened to pull the plug on DISH Network subscribers if the satcaster didn't meet its demand to negotiate on behalf of 32 stations it doesn't control.

For its part Dish asserted that by rejecting a short-term contract extension, Sinclair would be violating FCC good faith negotiation requirements mandated by US Congress, and that the demand is in direct violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules mandated by the STELA Reauthorisation Act of 2014 (STELAR).

The satellite company also charged that in violation of FCC regulation, Sinclair had assumed a unilateral stance to its negotiations, including the refusal of a contract extension so the parties can explore alternative paths toward an agreement.

Days ago, Dish had offered a short-term contract extension to Sinclair that would include a retroactive "true-up" when new rates were agreed upon, and would preserve the ability of Dish customers to access the Sinclair local stations while negotiations continued.

Sinclair rejected the earlier offer, and said that 13.9 million Dish customers' access to 153 local channels in 79 markets would be cut off if another deal couldn't be reached by midnight on Sunday evening. Now the extension preserves Dish customers' access to these channels.

Dish is also asking the FCC to stay action on its Verified Retransmission Complaint and Request for Preliminary Injunctive Relief as the two parties continue to negotiate. "We appreciate that we have mutually created time to try to find the right path to serve consumers," commented Warren Schlichting, Dish senior vice president of programming.