Hearst Television has blacked out Dish Network customers' access to their local channels in 26 markets across 30 states in a battle over money.
Hearst is blacking out millions of Americans for the second time since January," Dish executive vice president of programming Warren Schlichting said.
"While we are listening to customers and working on their behalf to keep their TV bills manageable, Hearst is again turning its back on its public interest obligations and using innocent consumers as bargaining chips."
Hearst rejected Dish's offer to extend its contract – including retroactive payments for new rates – that would have keep the local stations channels up, according to DISH officials.
Dish accused Hearst of turning its back on "public interest obligations" and holding "local viewers hostage" in a bid to secure "above-market rate increases nearly double the current DISH rate, and other unreasonable demands."
"Hearst has also refused Dish's offer to match the rates paid by other pay-TV providers," DISH wrote in a press release.
R. Stanton Dodge, Dish executive vice president and general counsel, added:
"Hearst's decision to cut ties with Dish customers is a prime example of why Washington needs to stand up for consumers and end local channel blackouts. Broadcasters like Hearst use their in-market monopoly power to put profits ahead of the public interests they are supposed to serve."
Kyle Grimes, president of Hearst Television, said in a statement: "We regret the inconvenience Dish's demands have imposed on its subscribers, and we will keep you fully informed of developments."
Hearst denied it had "blacked out" any stations, saying they could be picked up by using over-the-air antennas, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Schlichting also suggested, until service is restored, customers can hook up indoor antennas to get reception of local programs for free.
Hearst Television's action affects viewers of 15 ABC affiliates and 12 NBC affiliates and various other networks including CW and MyNetwork.
Hearst stations left DirecTV for about a week in January, before a new agreement reached, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Deadline reported The American Television Alliance, an organization supported by pay TV providers including Dish, wants to change federal rules governing retransmission negotiations.
The group said there have been 102 cases in 2017 alone where broadcasters' signals have gone dark, putting the year "on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever."
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