NEW YORK — TV station operator Tegna Inc. has cut off Dish Network subscribers' access to its local channels in more than three dozen markets, including CBS affiliate WTSP-Channel 10 in Tampa Bay, because of a contract dispute between the two sides.
At issue is that satellite broadcaster Dish refuses to pay the rate increase pushed by Tegna for retransmission consent fees. A new deal would allow Dish to continue carrying 46 television stations in 38 markets across 33 states operated by Tegna.
The companies fired shots at each other in separate statements released late Friday. Dish, based in Englewood, Colo., said it offered a short-term contract extension to Tegna while negotiations continued. "Tegna had nothing to lose and consumers had everything to gain by leaving the channels up," said Warren Schlichting, Dish senior vice president of programming. "Instead, Tegna chose to turn its back on its public interest obligations and use innocent consumers as bargaining chips."
R. Stanton Dodge, Dish's executive vice president and general counsel, said that Tegna's decision to cut off access to subscribers is a "prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts."
Tegna, based in McLean, Va., said Dish routinely drops valued cable and broadcast channels and called it a "serial dropper of channels." It said it has always been able to reach a fair agreement with other providers without disrupting viewers. It noted that Dish is "preventing its customers from accessing valued channels, even as customers continue to pay for that content."
There's a lot at stake. Tegna is the largest independent station group of major network affiliates in the top 25 markets, reaching about one third of all TV households nationwide, according to its website. It's the largest independent owner of NBC and CBS affiliates in the country and is the fourth-largest owner of ABC affiliates.