Lilly Broadcasting’s COO says it has given permission to Dish Network to continue carrying its stations in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, although Lilly stations in Erie, Pa., go dark in a retrans dispute.
(Satellite Business News) — Lilly Broadcasting late yesterday gave Dish Network permission to resume distribution of its stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the retransmission consent agreement between the companies expired and the broadcaster’s other local stations in the area, and all of them in the continental U.S., went dark on the DBS service.
It was the second time in the last six months DBS subscribers have lost access via satellite to the local TV stations owned by Lilly over a retransmission consent stalemate.
Just this spring, AT&T’s DirecTv service lost the stations for almost two weeks.
As widely reported, both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were among the hardest hit areas by recent hurricanes.
But in an e-mail to Satellite Business News last night, Lilly Broadcasting Chief Operating Officer John Christianson said, “we have told Dish Network that they can continue to carry One Caribbean Television in Puerto Rico and the [U.S. Virgin Islands], to help those that can still see the networks keep informed as to what is happening in their region.”
Dish Network’s Bob Toevs confirmed the station had been restored to Dish Network subscribers in that area. How many homes on those islands still have power, or even a structure with a dish antenna left on it, was unclear.
According to some media reports, 95% of the homes on Puerto Rico still are without electricity, and very few homes, if any, on the U.S. Virgin Islands have power. Most telecommunications services, both wireless and wired, were wiped out in the region and only a few areas have been restored.
The return of that one local channel to those devastated regions was about the only point of comity between Dish Network and Lilly Broadcasting.
According to Dish Network, its subscribers in those areas also lost access via the DBS service to WSEEP, the CBS affiliate in both areas, and WNEY-VI, the ABC affiliate in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In addition, the Lilly stations in the rest of the nation left the DBS service, according to Dish Network.
They are the ABC and CBS affiliates in Elmira, N.Y.; the CBS, NBC, and NBC affiliates in Erie, Pa.; and the ABC and Me TV affiliates in Honolulu.
Earlier in the day, Dish Network blasted Lilly for not agreeing to an extension for the stations on the hard hit islands.
Lilly has “turn[ed] its back on [its] public interest obligations during [a] humanitarian crisis [and] uses [a] catastrophe to create ‘deal leverage,’” Dish Network said in a statement.
Lilly, the DBS service added, “is demanding from Dish [Network] and, by extension, its customers unreasonable rate increases higher than the current Dish [Network] rate. Lilly has also refused Dish [Network’s] offer to match the rates paid by other pay-TV [services].”
By not agreeing to keep the stations on in those areas, the DBS service said, Lilly is “is further blinding the citizens of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at this time, showing an unbelievable lack of compassion.”
The DBS service also said it had offered to retroactively pay Lilly Broadcasting the new rate once a price is agreed upon.
Dish Network Executive Vice President Stanton Dodge also said the episode is a “prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts.”
Not surprisingly, Lilly took a different view of the negotiations. “Unfortunately. as we place a high importance of local news, weather, and sports, Dish Network does not agree that local programming serves a value to our local community,” Christianson said in his e-mail.
In a formal statement, Lilly attributed the exit of the stations from the DBS service to a “breakdown in retransmission [contract] discussions” between the two companies.
Lilly argued its stations offer “some of the most quality and highest rated” programming on TV, and its “commitment to the local community is apparent not only through our local news, weather, and sports coverage” but through their various charitable endeavors.
“It is our hope that Dish Network will realize the value we bring to the local community and that together we can quickly reach an amicable agreement without a longterm disruption of service,” the broadcaster said.
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