Fox still blacked out for local DISH subscribers

Skye Kinkade

For the past six weeks, local DISH customers who are also 49er fans were out of luck in watching their team clinch the division title.

Since Nov. 26, Northwest Broadcasting (the parent company of KMVU Fox 26 in Medford) and DISH have been at an impasse. The two companies are unable to agree how much DISH will pay Northwest Broadcasting for its feeds, which include KMVU as well as Fox stations in Washington state and New York.

With Northwest Broadcasting's vice president Jon Rand saying negotiations are "far apart," 49er fans are growing more anxious that the dispute won't be resolved before their team's playoff game next weekend. Those who are addicted to American Idol are nervous they won't get the Season 12 premiere on Jan. 16.

This is the second dispute Northwest Broadcasting has been in during the past six months; in August, DirecTV customers were the ones left in the dark when the San Francisco Giants playoff games were aired on KMVU. An agreement was reached 10 weeks later after the first game of the World Series aired.

The squabble

DISH claims the Michigan-based Northwest Broadcasting refuses to accept the same fees that it has accepted from other cable and satellite providers.

"It is difficult for our small company to stand up to a $14 billion company like DISH, but if we do not, we will not be able to survive in this economic environment," Rand said.

DISH Network's vice president of programming Andrew LeCuyer released the following statement in a press release last week: "We are disappointed that Northwest has chosen to be so unreasonable in their demands, and we hope they will begin to negotiate in more realistic terms as soon as possible, so we can bring these channels back to our customers. We have offered to pay what our competitors pay for the exact same content; Northwest has rejected that fair and reasonable offer."

In a phone interview last week, Rand said the battle is really about retroactive payment for Northwest signals which have been broadcast since 2009 without a renewed contract. He said it was understood that after a deal with struck with DirecTV, DISH would accept the same deal. Rand said DISH didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

"We are a small company... we're small potatoes... in the past year, DISH has picked fights with a dozen small companies like ours. They don't do it to the big companies like Tribune. They figure they can get away with it with the small ones... That seems to be their MO."

LeCuyer said Northwest is "demanding an unprecedented and unusual 'retroactive payment' from DISH stretching back multiple years. That demand is above and beyond what DISH has already paid for the right to carry Northwest Broadcasting during this time."