DISH Network Senior VP Eric Sahl has sent a letter to the women's groups enlisted by women's net Lifetime to pressure DISH to reinstate the network.
Amidst a bitter carriage dispute, DISH dropped Lifetime Dec. 31. Lifetime Wednesday launched an ad/lobbying campaign to get back on the satellite service, including getting a number of women's groups--Now and YWCA among them--to sign an "open letter" to DISH parent EchoStar.
In his letter, Sahl reiterated the company's position that dropping the network was a business decision related to Lifetime's pricing.
"Simply put, the dispute between Lifetime and EchoStar is about economics, not women’s issues," wrote Sahl. "In letters dated October 18, 2005, and December 2, 2005, Lifetime required that we cease offering their programming December 31, 2005, if an agreement on new pricing was not reached. Lifetime’s final offer prior to our December 31st loss of Lifetime Movie Network was a price increase of over 76%. While Lifetime disputes this, they have not been willing to disclose the communications concerning their rate demands despite our standing invitation to do so. In summary, the only thing keeping Lifetime programming off DISH Network is Lifetime's excessive price demand, which would raise prices unreasonably to our customers."
Sahl pointed out that DISH has replaced Lifetime with Women's Entertainment network: "Lifetime has not explained why replacement of their programming with the Women’s Entertainment Channel is somehow contrary to the interests of women, and we hope you would agree it reflects our sensitivity to the issue."
Lifetime was quick to respond with some paper of its own, providing a statement from the National Council of Women's Organizations in response to the suggestion by EchoStar that Lifetime is playing politics with the issue.
“Charles Ergen is missing the point," said the statement. "Lifetime provides programming and public interest campaigns that are not available elsewhere. It covers issues crucial to women – such as breast cancer, violence against women, economic equality and girls’ self-esteem.... Uniquely, it links its public interest campaigns to its programming, creating a far more powerful message than PSAs randomly inserted into commercial spots.
"Most importantly, it informs viewers about women’s organizations where they can find help, information, and an opportunity to get involved.
DISH has no right to decide for women that they should not have all of the viewing options for which they have paid – especially their favorite networks. The only disservice to women in this dispute is keeping Lifetime off the air.”