With its blackout by Hearst Television network affiliates reaching the two-week mark, Dish Network used its rhetorical time to lobby Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a Democrat representing the Silicon Valley region, with some fast facts on broadcast retransmission.
The satellite TV operator also proposed "baseball-style" arbitration to end the impasse.
“We agree that it is time for consumers to stop being treated as pawns,” said Dish executive VP of programming Warren Schlichting, in a letter (PDF) to Eshoo.
“The video landscape has transformed since Congress created the retransmission consent regime in 1992, but the laws have remained unchanged,” Schlichting added. “Broadcasters continue to use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of their public interest obligations. The proof is in the numbers: Consumers have suffered more than 750 broadcaster blackouts since 2010, and the retransmission consent fees that broadcasters demand grew 27,400% between 2005 and 2016. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in Congress to revamp the out-of-date laws that drive these high fees and unnecessary blackouts.”
Schlichting’s letter comes amid a flurry of back-and-forth rhetoric from Dish and Hearst, the latter firing off a salvo Friday, establishing an online “shot clock” for the duration of the blackout.
Hearst blacked out 33 stations in 26 markets on Dish on March 3, claiming the satellite TV company refuses to pay a fair rate on broadcast retransmission licensing. Dish claimed that it offered to pay the same rate as rival satellite company DirecTV, which settled with Hearst on a retrans renewal in January after another short blackout.
For his part, Schlichting said it also offered Hearst a short-term extension of an expired deal, promising to pay any fee increases retroactively. He also told Eshoo that Dish has been handing out over-the-air antennas to subscribers in affected regions to make sure they see their shows.
Meanwhile, Dish once again proposed binding, “baseball-style” arbitration to resolve the impasse.
“The arbitration could be modeled on the arbitration procedures in the Federal Communications Commission’s final order and consent decree from the Comcast/NBCUniveral merger,” he said. “Importantly, Dish will agree that the new rates decided by the arbitrator will be retroactive to the date that the channels are put back up. Dish has maintained since the beginning of our negotiation that we are willing to pay market rates, and the arbitration path ensures that such rates can be determined in an orderly manner, and that the needless suffering being inflicted upon our customers by Hearst will come to an immediate end.”