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Dish Files FCC Complaint Against Tegna Alleging ‘Bad Faith’ Negotiations As Extended Outage Continues

Michael King

Dish has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging that Tegna has been acting in bad faith in connection with the ongoing negotiations over a new carriage deal.

Tegna’s 64 broadcast stations across the nation have been off the air for Dish satellite subscribers since Oct. 6. The outage does not affect those with Sling TV, which only carry NBC and FOX owned-and-operated channels.

“Tegna turned its back on its public-interest obligation and failed to engage in good faith retransmission consent negotiations with Dish,” said Andy LeCuyer, Dish senior VP of programming in a statement quoted by industry magazine Broadcasting + Cable. “Tegna’s demands were both unreasonable and inconsistent. This behavior negatively impacts Dish subscribers, and we expect Tegna’s bad behavior to only get worse as the programmer looks to sell its stations to the highest bidder. As a result, we have filed a formal complaint with the FCC to address Tegna’s blatant disregard of the Commission’s rules.”

In September, Tegna indicated that it had received several bids to purchase the company, and that company officials were reviewing the bids.

According to the filing, Dish says that viewership of Tegna’s “Big-4” affiliated stations (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) has declined over the past three years, and that despite this, Tegna is demanding an increase in the rate that Dish pays.

“The result of Tegna’s actions is that DISH’s subscribers have lost access to the critical local news, sports, and entertainment programming of Tegna’s Big-4 affiliated stations,” the filing said. “Tegna’s misconduct violates both the letter and the intent of the Commission’s good faith rules and has generated, and continues to generate, significant consumer harm.”

A Tegna spokesperson sent a statement to The Streamable on Monday afternoon that said, in part, that Dish’s complaint is without merit. The statement pointed out that Dish has dropped more than 230 channels over the past year, and is repeating the same pattern by refusing to reach an agreement with Tegna.

“DISH’s complaint is utterly baseless and without merit. TEGNA welcomes a chance for the FCC to review DISH’s conduct over the course of this negotiation. Perhaps a close examination of DISH’s conduct will cause them to come to the table to negotiate free from their consistently unproductive tactics and public misrepresentations,” the statement said. “Through it all, TEGNA has been steadfast in insisting that all we want is to reach a fair deal, and we have worked constructively to achieve that goal by offering DISH terms and conditions that reflect the marketplace and have served as the foundation for deals we have reached with other cable and satellite providers.

The statement continues, saying that Tegna made a serious proposal to Dish months ago, updating it more than once. The spokesperson’s statement says that instead of engaging in “transparent PR stunts,” that Dish should get serious about negotiating.

“TEGNA made a comprehensive proposal to DISH months ago and has updated its proposal multiple times, including a reduction in rates. DISH has refused to counter – it has not proposed rates in more than three weeks,” Monday’s statement said. “Rather than engage in transparent PR stunts, DISH should return to the negotiating table in a serious fashion and get a deal done before their subscribers are forced to endure yet another week without their favorite shows, valued local news, as well as marquee college football and NFL matchups.”

This is not Tegna’s first extended outage from one of the larger cable or satellite providers.

Last year, Tegna local affiliates were dropped from DirecTV and AT&T TV for about 18 days before the two sides were able to reach a deal. Dish Network is currently in a carriage dispute with Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has been ongoing since Mid-August.

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