published Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Dish Network to black out WTVC Channel 9

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Dish Network subscribers will likely be without "Good Morning America" or any other ABC programs starting Thursday.

The satellite provider's contract to carry WTVC-TV9 expires tonight at midnight. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns WTVC and 69 other stations which may be blacked out on Dish across the country, warned that unless the two companies can agree on how much Dish should pay WTVC, the channel will be blacked out.

"Sinclair is asking for more than any other station anywhere in the country," Dish vice president of programming Dave Shull said in a statement. "This goes beyond pure corporate greed, it's profoundly insensitive to the needs of the public."

WTVC General Manager Mike Costa wouldn't comment on the dispute, but Sinclair released a statement saying it is requesting substantially less than what Dish pays for less popular channels.

Both companies are still in discussions, but Dish spokesman Aaron Johnson was unsure how long the blackout could last.

"Each negotiation is unique," he said. "It's rare that there's a dispute, but for us our goal is to protect the monthly bills of customers and not raise their rates."

This is the second time in a year Dish has had to black out a station. WRCB-TV, Channel 3, the local NBC affiliate, was off Dish for seven weeks while the two groups negotiated the same issue.

"Is channel 12 going to be next? Will we have to go through it with them?" asked Bill Chapman, a Signal Mountain resident and eight-year Dish subscriber. "They provide good service, but it may be time for us to change."

Chapman has a contract with Dish and can't switch providers immediately. But if the blackout drags on and stops him from watching local shows, "Dancing with the Stars" and "Good Morning America," he may have to.

"EPB or Comcast may be getting a call," he said.

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525. Follow him at twitter.com/careyoneil.

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