Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb has written an ‘open letter’ to Dish in which the broadcasting executive denies the satcaster’s allegation that Hearst is unwilling to negotiate an end to their now 11-day-old fee fight.

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The letter, posted yesterday at Hearst station web sites, references a video released last week by Dish in which Warren Schlichting, the satcaster’s executive vice president for programming, charges that Hearst won’t respond to its latest offer.

On March 3, Dish lost 33 Hearst-owned local stations in 28 markets when the companies could not reach a new carriage pact and both sides have since blamed the other.

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“DISH has suggested that Hearst Television has been unwilling to negotiate,” Wertlieb says in his statement. “This is simply untrue. As we have said to DISH all along, we remain ready and willing to conclude a deal promptly. In contrast, DISH has said that they’re available day and night to reach an agreement, and yet they’ve refused to modify their completely off-market terms in any meaningful way. Given the foregoing and DISH’s extensive history of outages, we suspect they will employ any scheme that serves to delay meaningful discussions. While Hearst Television can’t force DISH to negotiate, we can assure you that we remain committed to reaching a fair deal, and we will work each and every day to make that happen.”

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Wertlieb offers little hope a deal will be reached soon, and urges Hearst viewers to contact Dish “and tell them you won’t wait a day longer,” a suggestion that Hearst viewers who subscribe to Dish should consider switching providers.

Programmers and providers often criticize each other during such disputes, but the publication of a letter from Hearst’s president suggests a wide gulf still exists between Dish and Hearst.

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The Hearst stations affected in the dispute include the ABC affiliate in Boston, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans and the NBC station in Baltimore, among many others.

— Phillip Swann