published Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Dish customers get WRCB restored as fight settled

Janie Morgan waited seven weeks and two days for WRCB-Channel 3 and Dish Network to end a contract dispute and station blackout.

But after the two companies finally came to an agreement and got the NBC affiliate back on the air around 4:15 p.m. Thursday, her happiness was fleeting.

"I have Dish Network, and it's pouring down rain so I can't use it right now," she said Thursday evening. "I had it for a few minutes."

Thursday's storm was easier to weather than the nearly 2-months-old blackout as the two companies negotiated how much Dish would pay WRCB to carry the station's programming.

Major networks such as Fox and NBC recently told their affiliates the larger companies would take a bigger share of those fees, leaving stations scrambling to make up the difference by charging higher fees.

WRCB-TV general manager Tom Tolar said he is barred by confidentiality clauses from discussing the contract. But on Nov. 17 Dish spokesman Aaron Johnson said WRCB was asking for a 150 percent fee increase. Dish representatives declined to discuss the settlement when contacted Thursday evening.

"The pace of the negotiations picked up markedly after the November sweeps were over," Tolar said. "Whether or not that had anything to do with the other side, I don't know."

WRCB recently signed agreements with Charter Cable and EPB, and Tolar said the station has reached agreements with other carriers and is working out details before signing the contracts. None of those negotiations were contentious, he said, and the station wasn't blacked out on any other network.

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