Dish subscribers know that over the last few months, Tribune Media and Dish Network are locked in a transmission dispute. As a result of the dispute, WHNT and other stations that are owned by Tribune Media are not available in Dish Network packages for millions of households since June. Negotiations are still continuing but Dish has removed the channels from their lineup.
A blackout obviously violates expectations. “From a consumer standpoint, you expect when you turn on your TV, you’re going to get your channels,” said Roy Gutterman, Director of the Tulley Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University. Stations like WHNT News 19 make their own programs and broadcast it free, but if carriers like Dish wish to take that free product and offer it to the users for a fee, then broadcast companies should also get a share of the fee.
The dispute started over carriage charges, the amount that Dish pays per user to carry local stations from Tribune. Dish Network says that they help a station by increasing their audience. This is by reaching the viewers who could not otherwise watch these channels. “Local programmers who are getting an expansive potential audience base can then charge more money for advertisers, and therefore their content becomes more lucrative for them as well,” said Gutterman.
From the point of view of Tribune, they spend money to offer programming that adds value to the services that are offered by Dish Network to their subscribers. “People still need local news and local information, there’s no doubt about that,” said Gutterman. With the football season nearing, the value of the programming will go up and put pressure on the negotiations between Dish and Tribune.
“I don’t think any operator, whether it’s a broadcaster or a cable or satellite entity would want to lose an audience as big as college football or pro football. So that’s where the leverage is,” Gutterman said. Experts hope that football season will provide the final push for the negotiations. At least the fans are hoping so.