Tribune calls Dish offer 'hollow,' proposes letting FCC monitor negotiations

Tribune Broadcasting today responded to Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) call for binding arbitration in the two companies' retransmission negotiations, calling it a "hollow offer, designed to mislead consumers and avoid returning to meaningful negotiation."

"Dish routinely makes these offers of arbitration instead of negotiating, and they are always rejected," said Gary Weitman, senior vice president of Corporate Relations for Tribune Media. "Arbitration is an expensive substitute for the negotiating process set up by Congress and Dish has a history of walking away from arbitration when the outcome goes against it."

Tribune went on to call out Dish's history regarding binding arbitration, specifically concerning the NBCUniversal/Comcast negotiations in 2010.  Tribune said that Dish took Comcast SportsNet California off the air when it lost the arbitration, "leaving millions of viewers in the dark."

As an alternative, Tribune suggested allowing the FCC to monitor the negotiations through joint daily calls.

"Doing so will make abundantly clear to the FCC and the public that it is Tribune Media, not Dish, that is negotiating in good faith to obtain an agreement at current market rates," Weitman wrote.

Tribune, which insists it is only seeking fair market rates for its programming, again offered to extend the negotiations deadline to Aug. 31, 2016 on a status quo basis so that the stations can be restored during talks.

In response, Dish reiterated that arbitration is a path to the fair market rates sought by Tribune.

"If Tribune is serious in its commitment to accept fair market rates, then there is no downside for them to immediately restore the Tribune channels on Dish while allowing a neutral third-party arbitrator to review Dish's agreements with other station groups, as well as the rates that Tribune receives from our pay-TV competitors and determine the fair market rates that Tribune desires on a basis that is binding upon Dish and Tribune," said Warren Schlichting, Dish executive VP of programming, in a statement. "This is especially true since Dish has offered to retroactively pay any new rates back to the date that the channels are restored to consumers."

As of now, 42 Tribune stations in 33 markets are blacked out for Dish subscribers.

Tribune's rebuke of Dish's call for arbitration comes as Dish continues to tout its over-the-air antenna solution as a way to maintain channels during the negotiations.

"Our solution to offer free over-the-air antennas to impacted consumers has been tremendously successful, and provided consumers with a meaningful option to fight back against the unreasonable demands of broadcasters whose primary goal should be to serve the very consumers that they are using as pawns to gain negotiating leverage," said Schlichting in a statement.

Related articles:
Dish asks Tribune to submit to 'baseball-style arbitration,' says it worked for NBCU deal
Dish blacked out by 42 Tribune stations
Dish at retrans impasse with Cox Media too, and may see 84 channels go dark
Dish tells FCC its going through with arbitration on NBCU renewal

This article has been updated to include Dish's response.