DISH Network is no longer carrying 21 WFMJ-TV and its sister station, WBCB, after the two companies failed to reach an agreement on a new contract Friday.
The action puts DISH customers at risk of not being able to watch the Summer Olympics, which begin July 27.
Under federal law, satellite and cable television providers cannot carry local television stations without an agreement in place.
Jack Grdic, general manager of WFMJ, expressed his disappointment over the situation.
“We have been negotiating with DISH for several months and have agreed to extend the old agreement several times,” he said in a news release. “We made a last-ditch effort to avoid a service interruption [Friday] morning by substantially revising our offer in DISH’s favor. But DISH did not make a counterproposal. Instead, DISH chose to let the old agreement expire.”
In a separate news release, DISH, however, blamed the impasse on WFMJ.
The satellite-TV provider said WFMJ is insisting on a rate increase of more than 250 percent, adding it is “determined to hold the line against the kind of greed” that would adversely affect its customers.
“We are disappointed that WFMJ has chosen to be so unreasonable in their demands, because we know a significant number of DISH customers enjoy getting their local news, sports and weather on the NBC affiliate,” said Andrew LeCuyer, vice president of programming for DISH.
“We hope WFMJ will soon become more reasonable so we can resume broadcast of this channel on DISH.”
Grdic denied that the station is being unreasonable.
“We have only asked DISH to pay the same low rates that other providers pay for our signals — rates that are far lower than the rates DISH pays for other channels that a lot of Valley residents don’t watch and probably never heard of,” he said.
Grdic said he is surprised at DISH’s action, especially with the Olympics drawing near. As an NBC affiliate, WFMJ will carry the games, which always draw a huge television audience. WFMJ’s news programs consistently are ranked No. 1 in the Valley, he added.
Grdic said he will continue trying to reach an agreement with DISH but is taking steps so that WFMJ and WBCB customers can continue to pick up the stations.
WFMJ and WBCB still are being carried by all other local cable and satellite distributors serving the Valley. Grdic said a list of those distributors, with contact information, will be posted on both stations’ websites so customers can switch to them.
The station also has alerted its other distributors of DISH’s decision in hopes that they will attempt to sign up DISH subscribers.
Both WFMJ and WBCB also are available for free over the air, Grdic noted.
DISH recently came to terms with the company that owns the other three major TV stations in the Youngstown market — WKBN, WYTV and FOX Youngstown — without any disruption in service.