Chattanooga Dish Network customers could soon be cut off from their favorite NBC and WRCB-TV3 programs if the satellite provider and TV station owner don't resolve a contract dispute over what the satellite carrier pays to carry Channel 3.
WRCB-TV began warning viewers last week that subscribers of the Dish Network could lose access to Channel 3 programs because Dish is threatening to cut off its contract with the local NBC affiliate.
"Currently, Dish refuses to pay more than a penny a day for our local and NBC programming while most subscribers are paying over $30 a month," WRCB-TV said in a statement read by general manager Tom Tolar. "We think you'll agree that WRCB's local news and information programming and our NBC programing is worth at least 2 cents a day."
But Aaron Johnson, a communications manager for the Dish network, said that the owner of WRCB-TV and a sister TV station in Reno, Nev., wants to boost the carrying fees for Dish to offer the local stations by 335 percent.
"Over the past few years, we've negotiated over 1,000 arrangements with local TV stations across the country and the rate increase they are asking for is unheard of," Johnson said. "It's a bit disingenuous to say this will only be pennies a day when what they are asking of us would cost millions of dollars more over the life of the contract."
Neither Dish nor WRCB-TV officials would say when the current contract between Channel 3 and the satellite carrier expires. WRCB-TV has offered to allow Dish to continue to carry its programs at the current contract rate while discussions continue.
Dish Network Corp., is the second-largest pay TV provider in the United States with more than 14 million subscribers nationwide.
A year ago, Dish Network was embroiled in a similar carriage dispute over rates paid to carry 15 stations owned by Belo Corp. An agreement for Dish to carry the Belo stations was finally reached on Oct. 29, 2010.
DirectTV, the largest satellite TV provider, is battling News Corp. over Fox Network shows which could lead to DirectTV's pulling the plug on Fox channels Nov. 1.
In Chattanooga, Tolar said he hopes an agreement will soon be reached. But in case it is not, Channel 3 is telling viewers about how they can watch WRCB-TV with its free broadcast signal.
"You can use a VHF-UHF antenna to receive our free over-the-air signal," he said. "We apologize for any inconvenience to our loyal Dish users."