FCC steps into Dish-Tribune fray

The FCC has asked executives for Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) and Tribune Media to file reports outlining their respective positions in a five-week broadcast retransmission battle that has seen 42 Tribune stations in 33 markets blacked out on the satellite TV operator's service.

As noted by TV Predictions, FCC Chairman outlined the information request last week in a blog post about his agency's decision not to move forward with changing the "totality of circumstances" test for good-faith negotiations between broadcasters and MVPDs.

Wheeler outlined the Dish-Tribune blackout as a prime example of how the FCC already has tools to handle blackouts on a case-by-case basis.

"In the recent – and ongoing -- dispute between Dish Network and Tribune Media, when the parties failed to reach an agreement or to extend their prior deal pending further negotiations, consumers began to suffer what is becoming an extensive blackout," Wheeler said. 

"I summoned both parties to Washington to negotiate in coordination with commission staff. When that step failed to produce an agreement or an extension, the Media Bureau issued comprehensive information requests to both parties to enable FCC staff to determine whether they were meeting their duty to negotiate in good faith; we are reviewing their responses as I write. If that review reveals a dereliction of duty on the part of one or both parties, I will not hesitate to recommend appropriate commission action," Wheeler added. 

Tribune stations were pulled off Dish on June 12. The dispute has escalated into a lawsuit filed by Dish, alleging Tribune is using defamatory language in its rhetoric. Dish has asked Tribune to submit to "baseball-style" arbitration on the matter. Tribune said that Dish has refused to engage with it at the bargaining table. 

Reps for both Dish and Tribune didn't immediately respond to FierceCable's inquiry for comment.

Of course, Dish Network chief executive Charlie Ergen will likely have something to say on the matter when Dish reports second-quarter earnings Thursday. 

For more:
- read this FCC blog post
- read this TV Predictions story

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