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Dish Network seeks Tribune arbitration

Dish Network’s subscribers are suffering a blackout of Tribune Broadcasting stations in some 33 markets. 42 local channels have been affected since June 12th. Now Dish is asking for arbitration in what is being described as a deepening ‘hardball’ dispute.

Dish Network’s request is for binding arbitration to take place and to set a fair price for Tribune’s carriage. However, Dish has also asked that Tribune re-instate its stations pending the arbitration hearing.

“We want to return these local stations to our customers immediately, and binding, baseball-style arbitration offers a path to reach a fair deal and to serve the best interests of our customers,” Warren Schlichting, Dish’s EVP/programming, said in a news release. In baseball arbitration, each side submits a firm price, and the arbitrator selects one.

In a later update, Shlingting added: “Tribune claims that it is ‘seeking nothing more than fair market rates for the value of [its] programming – the same market rates that Dish pays other local station groups, and the same market rates that [it gets] from other satellite, cable and telco partners.’

“If Tribune is serious in its commitment to accept fair market rates, then there is no downside for them to immediately restore the Tribune channels on Dish while allowing a neutral third-party arbitrator to review Dish ‘s agreements with other station groups, as well as the rates that Tribune receives from our pay-TV competitors and determine the fair market rates that Tribune desires on a basis that is binding upon Dish and Tribune.”

“This is especially true since Dish has offered to retroactively pay any new rates back to the date that the channels are restored to consumers. Regrettably, we can only interpret Tribune’s unwillingness to participate in binding arbitration as an indication that it actually is angling for rates that are above fair market and that it wants to keep the Tribune channels off Dish as long as possible in order to continue to use innocent consumers as pawns to gain negotiating leverage against Dish.”

In the meantime, Dish continues to fight for customers by distributing tens of thousands of free over-the-air antennas to help impacted consumers regain access to the Tribune local broadcast stations.”

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