Missouri AG Says Dish Could Be in Violation of Agreement

Absence of Fox stations prompts complaint; Dish 'respectfully disagrees.'
Author:
Publish date:

The attorney
general of Missouri has asked Dish network to allow subscribers to
cancel its service without penalty and to inform subscribers they may do
so.

AG
Chris Koster sent a letter Wednesday informing Dish that the fact it was
no longer carrying Fox regional sports nets and could lose access to
Fox TV stations was a violation of Dish's July 2009
"assurance of voluntary" compliance agreement to settle charges of
unfair and deceptive practices. Dish disagreed.

"Many
subscribers entered into long-term service contracts with Dish Network
under the belief that these channels would be provided during their
service commitment," he said, adding that if they had
known the channels might not be available they would not have entered
into the agreement. He also argues that Dish's cost have decreased now
that it isn't providing that programming, while subscribers monthly
rates have remained unchanged.

He said to
make sure the "cessation" of fox programming does not constitute a
violation of that agreement, it needs to allow cancellations without
cancellation fees.

"It's
unfortunate that Fox pulled its channels off Dish Network at 12:01 a.m.
on Oct. 1," Dish responded in a statement. "The loss of Fox regional
sports channels is completely out of our control.
We asked Fox to leave the channels up while we negotiated for a fair
deal and Fox refused."

Fox Networks
pulled the plug on FX, National Geographic Channel and 19 Fox Sports
Net regional sports channels earlier this month after they failed to
come to carriage terms by the Oct. 1 deadline. Dish's retrans deals with Fox come due Nov. 1.

Fox is separately in a carriage fight with Cablevision that has brought a lot of attention from public officials. Koster said
he recognized that Dish had substituted other channels for the Fox
programming, calling it "some restitution."

But that was not sufficient.
"Dish Network has as responsibility to its subscribers to provide the
channels they believed they would receive throughout the duration of the
contract," he said.

If that
became a general assumption by local governments, it could have quite an
impact on the cable industry's migration of analog channels to digital.

Dish said
that it was not in violation of the compliance agreement: "The
negotiations between Dish Network and various Attorneys General that
ultimately lead to the 2009 Assurance of Voluntary Compliance
specifically recognized that our programming packages change over time.
The pay-TV industry is intensely competitive, dynamic and rapidly
evolving.  Our customers understand that..."

Related