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Dish Network fires back in dispute with Media General

The company blamed Media General in a spat that could see WSLS-TV dropped from its lineup.

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 10:02 am | Updated: 10:04 am, Wed Sep 18, 2013.

Dish Network says that Media General balked at extending a current retransmission agreement, which makes it more likely that WSLS-TV (Channel 10) and stations in other markets will be dropped from the satellite company’s service in two weeks.

One day after Media General television station general managers in 17 markets accused Dish of not wanting to pay a fair price to carry their stations, Dish executives fired back with their own statements on Tuesday. Dish claimed that Media General rejected an offer to extend the current contract while negotiations continue. They also called for Congress to reform the way retransmission consent agreements are handled.

Retransmission fees are the money cable and satellite companies pay to stations in order to carry their programming. Negotiations over those fees have become more contentious in the past two years, as stations and their corporate parents look for new revenue streams in an age when the Internet threatens to steal more viewers from broadcast television.

In a news release, Dish director of programming Sruta Vootukuru said that Dish wants to wait to strike a deal until after Media General completes its merger with New Young Broadcasting Holding Co., with whom Dish already has a long-term agreement.

“The only reason for Media General to reject that offer is to try to squeeze consumers for more money, to the tune of five times what Dish currently pays,” Vootukuru said. “We’re working on behalf of our customers to keep the programming at a fair price.”

Dave Shull, Dish executive vice president and chief commercial officer, said that satellite and cable television providers should be allowed to substitute other network stations during contract negotiations.

“Consumers would benefit by getting their network programming without the threat of a blackout, instead of being used by broadcasters,” Shull was quoted as saying in a news release.

Media General executives reached Tuesday had no additional comment. On Monday, they claimed that they are only asking for fair market value for their programming from cable and satellite companies.

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