A fee dispute between Dish Network and WJHL-TV could leave viewers of the CBS affiliate in the dark if an agreement between both companies is not met.
The dispute centers around what’s referred to as a retransmission fee, which is a fee that satellite companies pay to broadcast content from network channels and local stations.
Station officials believe it is not getting adequate compensation from Dish for their signal due to the high number of viewers who view the channel via a satellite subscription, according to WJHL Vice President and General Manager Dan Cates.
“We think that all too often companies like Dish Network pay a much higher per-subscriber fee to cable networks that receive much lower viewing than a television network affiliated channel like WJHL,” Cates said.
If an agreement is not reached by the end of the month, Cates said viewers would lose the signal on Dish beginning at midnight July 1. After June 30, viewers will still be able to receive the station’s high-definition signal by using an over-the-air antenna.
In a news release Thursday, Dish officials stood by its offer, saying it was fair and that WJHL was asking the company to pay a “massive price increase.”
“We understand that our customers in the Tri-Cities area want their full local programming, and we are working around the clock to try to make that happen,” Dish Director of Programming Sruta Vootukuru said in the release. “Media General’s (the parent company of WJHL) demand is well above market increases. Dish will continue to fight on behalf of our customers to keep programming fees fair and as low as possible.”
Cates said the fees WJHL earns from broadcasting their programming through Dish’s satellite system is a “critical” part of the company’s business plan, allowing them to invest in quality programming, more syndicated programming and continue to maintain its network affiliation with CBS.
“They’ve (Dish) been getting much higher value from CBS network programs than they have from cable programs that they’ve been paying more for, so we want to level the playing field and feel that it’s much more fair than it has been,” he said.
WJHL has received multiple calls from viewers who are concerned about losing the station, according to Cates. He said the company is working hard to ensure an agreement is met.
“We hope the folks that are at the corporate levels negotiating this will be successful and reach an agreement that’s fair to all sides and that’s fair to all sides and that most importantly won’t put our viewers in the dark,” he said.