Photo: “Big Brother” would be a show potentially blacked out for metro Atlanta Dish subscribers seeking CBS affiliate WGCL-TV’s programming. 
Photo: “Big Brother” would be a show potentially blacked out for metro Atlanta Dish subscribers seeking CBS affiliate WGCL-TV’s programming. 

WGCL-TV (CBS46) and Dish TV in a fee dispute that may lead to a blackout July 15

Originally posted Saturday, July 13, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

CBS46 (WGCL-TV) and Dish Network are in a dispute over carriage fees that has gone public and could cause the station to be dropped for metro Atlanta subscribers Monday, July 15 at 7 p.m.

Dish pays CBS46 to gain access to the channel’s news and entertainment options, including summer programming such as “Big Brother,” “Love Island,” “The Code” and “60 Minutes.” 

Dish, which has about 12 million subscribers nationwide, does not release localized subscriber figures. But if extrapolated based on metro Atlanta’s size vs. the entire country (1.8%), that would equal about 216,000 affected households. 

The channel would still be available using a standard digital antenna for free or via subscriptions via other cable or satellite systems such as Xfinity, Spectrum or DirecTV/U-Verse. 

As is typical in these situations, each side blames the other for intransigence. 

Lyle Banks, general manager for CBS46, released this statement Friday:

“WGCL-TV has been trying for months to get DISH Network to negotiate seriously. Reaching a deal and preventing a blackout is our top priority. We know the vital local news, emergency information, and top-rated sports and entertainment programming we provide are important to DISH’s customers, and we hope DISH will make it a priority to reach a deal too. If you are a DISH customer, you can help by calling DISH and telling them you want WGCL-TV.”

Dish released this countervailing viewpoint, noting that “the broadcaster controls consent for its channels and thus it is the broadcaster that controls if customers get blacked out.”

“Even as more DISH customers turn to digital antennas for free access to their local channels, we recognize that many continue to rely on their pay-TV package to get these stations. For those customers, we are actively working to reach a fair deal before the contract expires knowing that only [WGCL owner] Meredith Corporation can choose to take their content away from DISH customers. DISH has successfully negotiated agreements representing hundreds of stations in recent months that benefit all parties, including our viewers. We are unsure why Meredith decided to involve customers in the contract negotiation process at a point when there is still time for the two parties to reach a mutually beneficial deal.”

Frequently, the two sides will quietly extend negotiations if they don’t work out by a deadline. Sometimes, it goes public like this one and they reach an agreement before a blackout occurs. Occasionally, a blackout does happen but typically it doesn’t last long. 

Two years ago, WSB-TV and DirecTV /U-Verse couldn’t come to an agreement and a blackout lasted less than 24 hours

In 2015, 11Alive’s owner Tegna had a similar dispute with Dish that led to a blackout that lasted less than 48 hours.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.