Dish Network loses two North Carolina stations over fee dispute

A small local TV broadcaster has pulled two of its North Carolina stations from satellite service Dish Network after a contract to carry those channels lapsed this week.

The stations, WRAL-TV (Channel 5, NBC) and WRAZ-TV (Channel 50, Fox), disappeared from Dish Network after a carriage agreement between the station’s parent company Capitol Broadcasting and Dish Network expired on Tuesday.

The incident is the latest case of a pay TV company like Dish Network refusing to carry channels from a local broadcast company after the station owners made a demand for more money in exchange for the right to distribute their over-the-air channels. Earlier this month, Dish Network pulled around 160 stations owned by Nexstar Media Group over a similar dispute.

Distributors like Dish Network have opted in recent years to drop channels instead of signing new agreements that incorporate higher fees for channels, saying these fees are often passed on to customers in the form of higher bills. Pay TV companies have been especially weary of making those deals with local broadcast station owners, noting that these same channels are often available to most of its customers with an over-the-air antenna for free.

This week, Dish Network said Capitol Broadcasting did not accept what it called a “fair offer” to keep the channels on the satellite platform.

“We also offered to extend the current contract so viewers would not be impacted, but Capitol Broadcasting refused this as well,” a Dish Network spokesperson said.

On Twitter, Dish Network is blaming Capitol Broadcasting for the ongoing fee dispute, its eighth this year with a local broadcast company.

“We have been working hard to get a fair deal done, but unfortunately Capitol Broadcasting made the decision to remove their channels,” a Dish Network social media customer service agent said in a tweet.

A spokesperson for Capitol Broadcasting did not offer information on the specifics of what type of financial arrangement was being sought, but said its demands to Dish Network were not “unreasonable.”

“We are asking to be paid market rate for our programming so we can pay the affiliation fees required by NBC and Fox,” Jimmy Goodmon, the president and chief operating officer of Capitol Broadcasting, said. “his isn’t about greed; it’s about survival for our small, locally owned media company. Now, more than ever, local television news and original programming is a critical service to our community.”

This is the second time in a decade Dish Network and Capitol Broadcasting have been at odds over fees paid for the right to distribute WRAL and WRAZ. In 2014, when WRAL was a CBS affiliate, the channels disappeared from Dish Network for several weeks before being restored in January 2015.

Broadcasters have repeatedly complained that the blame often falls on them when they are simply trying to recoup the cost of higher fees required for them to distribute programming from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. These broadcasters have been aggrieved by the higher fees, which come at a time when they complain the networks are often providing the same programming over the Internet on various streaming services like Hulu and Peacock.

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