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TMCNet:  Dispute puts Fox, CBS service in limbo for Dish customers

[March 10, 2011]

Dispute puts Fox, CBS service in limbo for Dish customers

Mar 10, 2011 (The Santa Fe New Mexican - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Dish Network subscribers who want to watch Albuquerque stations KRQE-TV Channel 13 and KASA-TV Channel 2 will have to use an antenna to pull in the signals until a contract dispute is resolved between the satellite-dish service and the stations' owners.

LIN Media, parent company of KRQE and KASA, and the satellite service are involved in ongoing negotiations, but each side is blaming the other for a failure to reach a new agreement on how much Dish must pay to carry the stations' signals.

LIN Media, based in Providence, R.I., has taken the dispute to the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.

"We only want what is fair for our local stations, so that we can continue providing the premium news, sports, entertainment, and other local programming that is most important to viewers," LIN Media President and CEO Vincent L. Sadusky said in a statement issued after the previous deal with Dish expired Friday.

KRQE is the local affiliate of the CBS network, which includes such programming as key games in the upcoming NCAA college men's basketball tournament, while KASA is part of the Fox network, home to such popular shows as American Idol and The Simpsons.

The dispute affects more than just the Albuquerque/Santa Fe market. LIN and its subsidiaries operate in 17 television markets with 32 television stations around the country.

Bill Anderson, president and general manager of KRQE and KASA, said about 145,000 New Mexico subscribers are affected by the loss of the two channels on the satellite service. Anderson said he couldn't provide data on the number in Santa Fe County.

While they wait out the negotiations, viewers can still receive KRQE-TV and KASA-Fox over the airwaves for free and in high definition by using an antenna or switch to a different pay-television provider.

Anderson said he was optimistic that the dispute will be resolved quickly and stated that there had never been a stalemate before in LIN's negotiations with Dish Network.

"Our folks have pushed themevery step of the way," he said. "We would never walk away from this with viewers not being able to watch some of their favorite shows." He added, "There's never been a doubt we will have an agreement with these guys. The primary issue is how to do that." LIN Meda, in a statement issued in a question-and-answer format, ridiculed Dish Network's accusation that LIN Media refused to answer telephone calls. "If Dish hadn't rejected our many previous efforts to extend the ... agreement for another month, there would have been no interruption in service," the statement said.

The document also states that LIN "had worked tirelessly to negotiate with Dish Network in order to reach a fair deal." A Dish Network spokesperson didn't return a telephone call Wednesday seeking comment.

But a statement from Dish spokesman Dave Shull said, "It's unfortunate that LIN, a corporate media conglomerate, pulled its channels ... holding viewers in 17 markets across the nation hostage while attempting to coerce DISH Network to submit to outrageous demands." The statement continued, "Even more disappointing is the fact that LIN didn't even make an effort to keep negotiating during the final hours and failed to respond despite our numerous attempts to reach them. LIN also refused to grant the contract extension DISH Network proposed." Dish's statement also said LIN is simply being greedy, insisting on a rate increase "so immense that Dish and its customers couldn't possibly absorb it." In comments made in its submission to the FCC, LIN's Rebecca Duke said, "LIN has made every effort to avoid this disruption. However now that Dish has made the decision to terminate carriage, we are working hard to alert viewers and to ensure that all viewers will continue to have access to the affected television stations' signal while we continue our efforts to negotiate a carriage agreement with Dish." Duke added, "We are actively working on this process, and we will continue to devote all necessary resources to reaching a fair agreement with Dish as quickly as possible." Contact Bob Quick at 986-3011 or bobquick@sfnewmexican.com.

To see more of The Santa Fe New Mexican, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.santafenewmexican.com/. Copyright (c) 2011, The Santa Fe New Mexican Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.

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