Fight Between LIN, DISH Leads to Station Blackouts

Some 1.1 million DISH subscribers woke up Saturday morning to find that one or two local TV stations owned by LIN Media had vanished from their satellite service.
The blackout, which happened at midnight on March 4, came the day after the Federal Communications Commission opened up a review of the rules governing the retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and pay TV distributors.
LIN and DISH are at odds over how much money LIN should receive in retransmission fees for its 27 TV network affiliates in 17 markets.
In a statement, DISH said LIN was looking for a 175 percent rate increase in the first year.
“LIN media is simply being greedy, insisting on a rate increase so immense that DISH Network and its customers couldn’t possible absorb it,” said Dave Shull, svp, president of programming for DISH.
“We only want what is fair for our local stations, so that we can continue providing the premium news, sports, entertainment and other local programming that is most important to viewers,” said Vincent Sadusky, president and CEO of LIN.
Even before DISH pulled the plug on LIN’s stations, proponents of retransmission reform were pointing to the dispute as one more horror story to be added as evidence for why the FCC should step in and revise the rules.
The FCC, however, concluded last week that it was limited in its authority to compel binding arbitration or mandatory carriage and instead asked for comment about proposals to help determine whether parties were acting in “good faith.”
Before the blackout, in a letter to the FCC dated Feb. 28, LIN warned the FCC that a blackout was imminent because DISH refused to extend the agreement for a month. DISH only agreed to a one-week extension.
“When LIN realized that negotiations were unlikely to conclude by 11:59 p.m. today . . . LIN proposed to extend its existing agreement for an additional month, with no change in compensation or other terms during the extended period,” wrote Rebecca Duke, vp of distribution for LIN.