Satellite TV feud remains on hold

One side is stubborn. The other won't budge.

Dish Network, the Denver-based satellite television programmer, and Eugene-based TV station owner Chambers Communications each claim the moral high ground as their dispute drags on over how much Chambers should be paid to allow Dish Network to carry its signal.

Stuck in the middle are an unspecified number of subscribers, who have gone without ABC-affiliate programming since Dec. 15, and have been reduced to firing off e-mails of protest or phoning in their disapproval.

If President Obama and the Republicans can hash out a compromise, why can't Dish and Chambers?

"The price we pay our syndicators and networks has gone up and the cost of generating local content is also higher," said Bryan Johnson, director of creative services for Chambers' stations in Medford, Bend, Eugene and Klamath Falls. "What we're asking for is not necessarily a rate increase, but a rate adjustment."

Chambers Communications said it is asking for less than a penny a day, per subscriber. Dish Network responds that Chambers is demanding a 500 percent boost.

"They haven't budged," said Dish Network spokeswoman Francie Bauer. "We submitted an offer late last week and they flatly refused it. We are talking, but they refuse to see anything but the 500 percent increase."

Dish Network is the third largest television programming provider behind ComCast and DirecTV.

"Our core value is to keep our prices low while negotiating what is fair for both parties — not an egregious amount that taxes our customers," Bauer said.

For Medford's KDRV-TV, Dish Network viewership delivers just a sliver of the audience, as is the case in the other markets.

"When it comes down to it, the Dish audience is not our primary audience," Johnson said. "While there is a considerable amount of folks out there, we still reach the vast portion of viewers through cable, over the air and other methods. The impact to our advertisers is really negligible."

Dish Network first agreed to carry Chambers' Oregon stations' programming in 2003 and extended the agreement four years ago.

"Viewers are being confronted with a couple of different sets of information," Johnson said. "Dish is latching on to the percentage increase. They are spinning it as a tremendous increase, hiding from viewers that it is less than a penny a day."

While neither side is backing off from its position, both profess they want the signal back on Dish Network.

"We didn't want an interruption for our viewers and we tried to be as flexible as we could be," Johnson said. "We're still trying to negotiate with them and reach an agreement soon."

Viewers have been "fairly supportive" of the satellite programmer's position, Bauer said. "They are sick of TV companies raising their prices multiple times a year, they appreciate we are fighting to keep our costs fairly low."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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