Dish Network viewers lose Columbus-area CBS affiliate WRBL

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 30, 2013 

With the midnight deadline passing, Dish Network and WRBL News 3, the local CBS affiliate, remained at odds Tuesday over a new contract.

Denver-based Dish was forced by federal law to pull the Columbus station from its satellite system when a new retransmission agreement wasn’t reached between it and Richmond, Va.-based Media General, parent company of WRBL.

“The company is doing everything it can to reach a fair resolution with Dish before the agreement expires and avoid any disruption in service,” said WRBL general manager David Hart in an online video message to the station’s viewers. “All we are asking is to be fairly compensated for our programming.”

In the message, Hart points out that local TV stations make up 35 percent of the total audience that views programming through cable and satellite TV. Yet, he says, local broadcasters receive only 7 percent of the total fees paid by those companies. He also notes Dish reported a profit of more than $2 billion over the last two years combined.

“And they aren’t willing to pay what amounts to pennies a day to provide our station on its channel lineup?” Hart says.

Dish responded recently to the stalemate with a series of newspaper ads saying that “CBS 3 wants you to pay 5X more for the same shows” and that “Dish defends your right to a fair deal.” It encourages viewers to contact Hart with their concerns.

Down-to-the-wire contract negotiations between TV stations and cable or satellite operators appear to be growing more commonplace. Less than two months ago, Dish Network and Raycom Media, which operates the local ABC and Fox affiliates, WTVM and WXTX, were at an impasse for weeks leading up to a July 31 contract deadline. It was resolved in early August.

In his communication with viewers, Hart tells local residents they can still view WRBL for free using an over-the-air antenna. He also notes other cable companies, as well as satellite TV firm DirecTV, will continue to carry the channel as usual.

He, too, urges viewers to call Dish and let their voices be heard.

“Tell them, don’t drop WRBL,” Hart says.

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