The carriage dispute between Dish and Cox Media is already looking like it could be a protracted one with the broadcaster this morning sending a cease-and-desist letter to the satcaster, claiming it’s making ‘false claims’ about its demands and its stations.

Dish lost 12 Cox Media-owned local stations on Monday night after the two sides failed to reach a new carriage agreement. Cox’s letter today says Dish falsely claimed in a press release on Monday night that it refused to allow it to continue offering the stations while negotiations continued.

“That fact is, we asked Dish for an extension of our prior contract both in writing and verbally on several different occasions,” Cox Media CEO Daniel York stated in a press release. “CMG is now publicly asking Dish yet again to put our market-leading stations back on their satellite platform under the agreement that we both have operated under for years, and we’re again inviting them to finally start engaging in a meaningful good-faith negotiation of a new contract.”

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The TV Answer Man this morning asked Dish for a comment but has yet to receive a response.

On Friday morning, Dish issued this response to Cox Media’s letter:

“Cox Media Group’s statements regarding its negotiations with DISH Network and requests for contract extensions are misleading at best. During the negotiation process, Cox and its majority owner (large private equity firm Apollo Global Management) have attempted to pressure DISH to include Standard Media and Tegna stations – stations Cox does not own – in the Cox agreement. Cox has had multiple occasions to agree to extensions for their own stations and has refused. 

The Dish statement continued: “Cox has failed to mention it opted not to exercise its unilateral right to extend its contract. Still, DISH subsequently made additional extension offers to Cox. These offers simply requested Cox sign a letter affirming it would not interfere with the multi-year contract DISH signed with Tegna this past February. To date, Cox has refused these offers.

“In addition to attempting to negotiate for stations it does not own, Cox and Apollo were demanding a massive fee increase of nearly 75 percent. The demanded fee is unreasonable given that Cox’s viewership on DISH TV has significantly declined over the past three years, indicating that many viewers have moved to other channels and services for programming they prefer. DISH is disappointed that Cox continues to turn its back on its public interest obligations and refuses to engage in good faith retransmission consent negotiations with DISH. Despite Cox’s practices, DISH remains open to reaching an agreement for Cox stations that is fair to our customers.”

Dish is referring in its response to Cox Media’s plan to acquire five stations from Tegna; the deal is under federal review. 

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The Cox Media letter also says Dish’s statements were “designed to mislead viewers and thereby harm the reputation of CMG in the marketplace.” The broadcaster says Dish “never asked for an extension to continue carrying CMG’s stations and (it is Dish) who unilaterally pulled the plug despite CMG expressly authorizing DISH to continue carrying the channels under the prior contract.”

“DISH has also made a cynical and false claim that CMG under-invests in local journalism, a statement the company takes very seriously given its strong record of investments in local news, investigative journalism, programming and in serving its communities in innumerable other ways,” the press release states.

On Monday night, Dish alleged that Cox Media is seeking payment for Dish subscribers who do not get local channels through the satellite TV service. (Dish offers plans that do not include local channels.)

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“Cox’s refusal to negotiate in good faith and subsequently forcing a blackout of its stations for DISH customers is deplorable,” Brian Neylon, Dish’s group president, said in a statement. “Cox is demanding an exorbitant rate increase, negotiating for channels it does not yet own and insists on payment from customers who do not subscribe to local broadcasting, even as it continues to underinvest in local programming. Broadcasters like Cox put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve, even when its viewership has declined for years.”

Dish says the network affiliates that have been blacked out on include:

(ABC: WSB) – Atlanta, GA
(FOX: WFXT) – Boston, MA
(ABC: WSOC) – Charlotte, NC
(CBS: WHIO) – Dayton, OH
(FOX: KLSR) – Eugene, OR
(FOX: WFOX) – Jacksonville, FL
(ABC: WFTV) – Orlando, FL
(NBC: WPXI) – Pittsburgh, PA
(CBS: KIRO) – Seattle, WA

Cox Media also has three independent stations as part of the blackout.

Cox Media and Dish engaged in a several month-long dispute in 2020 before settling in December 2020.

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— Phillip Swann