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A carriage dispute occurs during a negotiation between a distributor (cable, satellite or streaming provider) and a programmer (local broadcast station owner and/or owner-operator of cable channels). The dispute triggers when the distributor and the programmer are unable to reach an agreement for carriage of channels on a pay TV system, likely after a programmer requests an increase in fees.
Customers of the distributor platform are left without one or more channels during the dispute. Carriage disputes are usually resolved when a distributor agrees to terms that a programmer sets; customers typically see the outcome of these agreements reflected on their monthly or annual bills.
In rare cases, a prolonged carriage dispute is the subject of litigation, after one company accuses the other of legal wrongdoing. Occasionally, a legal complaint is filed prior to the start of a carriage dispute, while a retransmission consent agreement is in place but clos to expiring.