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Tegna Files Complaint Against Dish Alleging Bad Faith and False Claims

Riley Van Steward

Early this morning, Tegna announced that they have filed a cross-claim against DISH to the FCC alleging that DISH failed to comply with FCC good faith rules and that DISH’s communications to the public about their own complaints against Tegna were “material misrepresentations.” Dish previously filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging that Tegna has been acting in bad faith in ongoing negotiations over a new carriage deal.

Tegna released this statement, “Our response and cross-complaint show that it is DISH which has acted in bad faith, not only by obstructing negotiations over many months but also through the distortions it has presented to the public and the FCC. Unfortunately, DISH’s behavior is consistent with its track record of obstructive tactics. Last year alone, DISH deprived its customers of more than 230 different channels due to disputes like this one. In addition, the company has a long history of abusing the process by bringing business disputes to regulators and courts.”

Yesterday in a Q3 earnings call, Dish CEO Charlie Ergen said that the company is “far apart” from resolving its standoff with Tegna. “We know the prices we pay everybody else. We know the prices in the marketplace. We know the ratings. So we know the economic value,” Ergen said. “We always pay more than the economic value because we have to factor in the customers that we lose. But the economic value to us is going down, not up right now. Tegna has been a good partner. We prefer to have it up, we prefer to have an honest negotiation, but we’re just apart.” There are “no serious negotiations,” Ergen continued.

64 broadcast stations provided by Tegna 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’s complaint to the FCC reads, “from the outset of the parties’ negotiation, DISH’s conduct manifested a design to delay and obstruct the parties’ negotiation. TEGNA set forth a comprehensive long-form proposal; DISH refused to engage. TEGNA scheduled an early call to discuss economics; DISH stated that it was a waste of time. TEGNA introduced an issues list to resolve key areas of difference; DISH abandoned it. TEGNA offered an extension to continue negotiating; DISH refused to make an economic proposal during the entire extension period.”

The NFL games that Tegna stations air were Tegna’s largest leverage in negotiations, but as football season slips away, so does Tegna’s negotiating power. Tegna’s complaint with the FCC will go forward, but whether Dish, Tegna or neither will be happy with the results remains to be seen.