Updated: Fisher, DISH Hit Retrans Wall

Fisher Communications said Thursday (Dec. 18) it was unable to come to a retransmission agreement with DISH Network. As of Dec. 17 when the former contract expired, 10 Fisher stations in seven markets went dark on the satellite TV service.

According to Fisher, DISH even rejected to extend its current agreement until Monday, Dec. 22, to ensure that the Pacific Northwest region, experiencing inclement weather, could continue to receive news and weather updates.

Stations affected by the impasse include KOMO (ABC) and KUNS (Univision) in Seattle; KIMA (Univision) and KUNW (Univision) in Yakima, Wash.; KATU (ABC) in Portland, Ore.; KVAL (CBS) in Eugene, Ore.; KBCI (CBS) in Boise, Idaho; KIDK (CBS) in Idaho Falls; and KBAK (CBS) and KBFX (FOX) in Bakersfield, Calif.

“Despite Fisher’s good-faith efforts to negotiate a new agreement, we were unable to reach acceptable terms to ensure that DISH provides us fair compensation for the value they receive from broadcasting our stations, which have leading positions in their markets and consistently deliver highly viewed news and programming,” said Rob Dunlop, senior vp of operations for Fisher.

Separately, Fisher filed a $1 million breach of contract lawsuit over DISH’s failure to comply with the terms of the prior carriage agreement. The TV group claims DISH failed to retransmit KUNP-TV’s signal from July 2006, when Fisher acquired the station, to April 30, 2008. DISH has also not paid Fisher any carriage fees for KUNP, as specified by the prior agreement.

Fisher also said DISH failed to pay Fisher in full for broadcasting KBAK and KBFX on its system, which Fisher purchased Jan. 1, 2008.

“Fisher Communications’ lawsuit is without merit. They are asking for payment on a station that elected must carry and by statute DISH Network does not owe any money for that station. We are bewildered by their allegation that any money could be owed on a Must Carry station. Furthermore, Fisher has asked for over an 80 percent increase from our customers, who should not be required to ‘bail out’ Fisher management for underperforming station,” DISH said in a statement.

DISH recently went through a similar retransmission battle with Young Broadcasting, pulling all 10 of the group’s stations. The spat was short-lived; the two parties came to an agreement earlier this week.