Dish Network this week filed lawsuits against Tribune Broadcasting and Tower Distribution, owner of WGN, over a blackout affecting 42 stations in 33 markets. Tribune responded by calling the lawsuits "frivolous" and accusing Dish of always putting itself before the needs of its subscribers.
"This is typical for Dish Network," said Gary Weitman, Tribune Media's senior vice president of corporate relations. "Dish constantly puts itself before the needs of its subscribers and our local viewers. Dish has forced other station groups and cable networks off its distribution system 15 times in the last three years -- it's one of the reasons the company has lost more than 150,000 subscribers in the last year alone."
Tribune said that Dish is using the lawsuit as a "delay and distraction" technique instead of negotiating.
For its part, Dish is accusing Tribune of launching a deceptive and defamatory campaign against Dish "in a last-ditch bid to force Dish to accept its terms."
"Tribune cannot actually believe the truth of any of the extremely negative statements it makes about Dish's performance because it repeatedly states that its true intent is to force Dish into a long-term renewal of the Dish-Tribune distribution agreements," said Dish in a court document. "In other words, because Tribune clearly intends for its campaign -- including through intentionally inflicting economic harm -- to force Dish to once again become its partner and renew its agreement to distribute Tribune Programming, Tribune's disparaging and defamatory comments about Dish cannot reflect an honestly-held belief or be made in good faith."
In samples of the ads included with the court document, Dish is referred to as "Dishgusting" and "Dishsturbing."
Dish is claiming a number of grievances in the lawsuit, including interference with contractual relations and lost revenue. The company is asking for more than $75,000 and for Tribune to cover its legal fees.
Dish's lawsuit and Tribune's response are just the latest salvos in a bitter retransmission impasse between the two companies. Last week, Dish asked Tribune to accept binding arbitration in its ongoing negotiations, an offer which Tribune deemed "hollow."
- read this Tribune Broadcasting press release
Tribune calls Dish offer 'hollow,' proposes letting FCC monitor negotiations
Dish asks Tribune to submit to 'baseball-style arbitration,' says it worked for NBCU deal
Dish blacked out by 42 Tribune stations