Fisher Communications Vs. Dish Network

I am a subscriber of Dish Network. I’ve been reasonably happy with them but recently tuned to channel 4 to be met with a message saying that because Fisher Broadcasting and Dish Network were unable to arrive at an agreement regarding retransmission fees, they no longer had the right to carry KOMO’s signal.

As a customer of Dish Network I’m upset with them but I’m more upset with KOMO and Fisher broadcasting because I feel their position is unreasonable, unethical, and just plain greedy.

Here is the issue as I see it. Years ago, Sony was sued over their product, the BetaMax VCR, which allowed customers to record television broadcasts. Sony prevailed on the grounds that once something is placed in the public domain, it remains in the public domain and is no longer subject to copyright law. Public broadcasting of a program constituted placing it in the public domain. This became known as the BetaMax decision.

In the years since, there have been some changes to copyright laws that have created some exceptions. That’s an understatement really, copyright laws and patent laws have totally run amuck, but I also think there is a moral issue here.

If you go to Fisher’s website (if you click on the title I’ve provided a link), you’ll find that they compare various paid channels that Dish Network pays for. This comparison is unfair because these channels have a different revenue model.

Commercial broadcasters sell advertising space in their program content to pay the costs of obtaining and broadcasting their programs. The customer doesn’t pay a monetary fee to watch the program, but suffers through the advertisements in exchange for receiving the program free.

Pay television by contrast provides programs without interruption of commercials in exchange for receiving a fee, directly or indirectly, from the viewer to provide the revenue that pays for the production and distribution of the programming.

Fisher is comparing one revenue model, commercial television, with another revenue model, pay television, and I don’t feel that it is a fair comparison. Fisher wants to collect revenue from both ends, they want to charge advertisers for airtime and they want to turn around and charge us, the viewers, for the program material in spite of the fact that we’re also forced to sit through the commercials for which they’ve received payment. I don’t find this to be a reasonable proposition.

KOMO operates an expensive transmitter broadcasting hundreds of thousands of watts from high gain antennas placed on a huge tower on Queen Anne hill in Seattle in order to reach viewers in much of Western Washington state. They spend the big bucks on the equipment, electricity to run it, personell to maintain it, in order to reach an audience that is valuable to advertisers and by extension to KOMO-TV who the advertrisers pay.

Now when Dish TV retransmits their signal, they increase the size of KOMOs’ audience and by extension the value of their airtime to advertisers. They provide this added value to KOMO at no cost to KOMO. If anything KOMO should be paying them! It’s like getting a free transmitter power increase or a higher tower. They are reaching more customers with a cleaner signal that more people will be willing to watch, at no cost.

But that isn’t enough, in spite of the fact that Fisher is receiving additional value from advertisers as the result of Dish Network carrying their signals, they expect Dish Network to pay them for the priviledge of helping them make more money.

As a customer who could go out and buy a new antenna, I fail to see the logic in Fisher Communications position. Sure they can argue that there is a cost of acquisition of programming (in some cases, much is provided free by the network) and a cost associated with thier operation, but they encounter those costs whether Dish Network retransmits their signal or not. Further, Dish Network also has huge costs of operation which are increased by carrying more signals. By carrying KOMOs’ programming, Dish Network increases the advertising revenue potential of KOMO-TV and does not increase their costs.

So I just can’t see Fisher Broadcastings’ logic at all. I can’t understand why they should expect people to pay them for the priviledge of increasing their audience and revenue.

One last point of irritation, both sides make the position that the other sides’ position is unreasonable (and on this note I agree with Dish and disagree with Fisher), but neither side is willing to provide specifics. Dish says that Fisher is demanding an 82% increase, Fisher publishes Dish’s letter in which this figure is mentioned without disputing it, but neither side is willing to say 82% of what? 82% of a dollar isn’t worth a squabble, 82% of ten million dollars is. What are we talking about here? If Fisher feels what they are doing is ethical, and if Dish feels what they are doing is ethical, why are both sides demanding confidentiality?

18 thoughts on “Fisher Communications Vs. Dish Network

  1. I view the arguments from an economical point-of-view – “rational greed”.

    Dish positions their most-demanded content only after they force customers to purchase packages of junk content. Probably because Dish pockets a bigger profit. Why can’t I buy Locals, ESPN and NFL Network for about cost plus 100% mark-up Because $40 profit is more than $10.

    Oh, I know their cost is so high… We’ve got 3 executives selling us how much they are protecting the two-bits in my pocket and their 6 figure bonus…

    Dish is no different than Fisher; they are both trying to profit at the expense of a large customer base.

    We NEED a class action and a firmer playing field supported by flexible competitive driven government regulation.

  2. i am fed up with both, I\i am leaving dish and going to avoid komo, this is a case of wealthy corporations arguing about money. screw them both

  3. J,

    I’m afraid I don’t follow you. Dish doesn’t force anybody to purchase anything. It’s a product, you can choose to buy it or not, and you can choose what packages you want or not.

    I’ve had Comcast, after many years of trying they were never able to deliver a clean signal. The analog channels were noisy, the digital channels smeared and with bad digital artifacts.

    Dish charges me far less for a very superior picture and I don’t feel that they are unreasonable overall.

    Fisher on the other hand, Dish’s carrying their signals increases Fisher’s revenue by increasing the audience and thus the value of their air time to advertisers. Dish’s carrying their signal does not increase Fisher’s expenses at all.

    I fail to understand the logic that suggests that Dish should pay Fisher in order to increase the value of Fisher’s product and their revenue.

    If you run a business, you would understand that generally if someone offers to increase your income and the value of your product, they want a piece of it, they don’t expect to pay you for the privilege.

    Also, you’ve got competitive alternatives with respect to Dish; you can go to Direct TV, or Comcast (if you don’t mind smeared yucky video) and actually that’s not entirely fair; I used to live near Comcast’s head end and my signal was excellent there, but out here in the sticks it’s garbage. Anyway, the point is you have alternatives to Dish, but you don’t have alternatives to Fisher for ABC network programming.

    Fisher has a monopoly in this respect, Dish does not. But beyond that their position, that Fisher should pay them for rebroadcasting something that has already been placed in the public domain, and for which Fisher already receives additional value when they do, is just absurd.

  4. I cannot understand why DISH has not provided the ABC signal from another reigon to those of us who are being held hostage by the Fisher/DISH dispute.

    Most of us wouldn’t much care about the local news from another reigon; but the shows that are of importance to us would be available.

    The main reason I used the word ‘hostage’ above is because many of us living in rural WA and OR cannot get a signal from cable or the airwaves. COMCAST does not provide cable in many rural areas and the hills interfer with a broadcast signal. Satellite is the only way to get any TV.

    I made a decision to go with DISH over DIRECT TV because they offered better equipment and service at the time.

    I am loath to switch to DIRECT TV now only to learn they have the same issue with Fisher in the future.

    DISH and FISHER may lose a lot of customers to make a point, I hope they understand the ramifications of this.

    I would be happy to have an ABC signal broadcast on DISH from LA or NY or any other major city.

  5. If DishNetwork bends over and pays Fisher its demanded increase, what will prevent other local channels from doing the same when their retransmit agreement expires? Nothing. And the satellite company will have no choice but to increase your costs accordingly.

    How much is this increase? On one of the Charlie-Chat sessions found on the former channel 4, he states that this increase is ‘Millions of dollars per year’. Now, I don’t know how many subscribers Dish has receiving Seattle locals, but I cannot see how this can pay.

    Why hasn’t Direct had these problems? Timing. They will. But they are more likely to if DishNetwork backs down.

    I, for one am going to go out and buy an outdoor HD antenna, and a couple of diplexers and install it near my Dish antenna and use the same cable to carry the OTA signal.

  6. The FCC prohibits Sattelite TV from offering a replacement for the local station as long as you can theoritically receive the local station with a standard antenna. It’s all about protecting the local monopoly. Offering the LA ABC feed would be good for the consumer, but bad for KOMO, so of course the FCC sides with KOMO.

  7. I do wish people would login instead of posting anonymously. It’s really hard to take the views of anyone who isn’t even willing to be a real person seriously.

    That said; whether or not Charlie is Cheap isn’t the issue here.

    Again, I ask you, why should someone pay you to do something that increases your income without increasing your expenses?

    Fishers position makes absolutely no sense. The fact that Dish paid them anything for material which has been already released into the public domain based upon the BetaMax precedent to me says that Dish already gone beyond that they’re morally or obligated to do.

    I’m not installing an HD antenna, I’m not watching Fisher.

    Regarding the FCC; they’ve been for all intents and purposes owned by the NAB for years, so it’s no surprise they are protecting the corporate interests at the expense of the public. That’s been a long standing tradition.

  8. When I signed up for Dish, it included ABC content. I was and am willing to pay for it. Charlie now tells us that he will refund a $1 back because Dish cannot deliver on that content. That’s a $1 per subscriber per month. I am sure that is far more than Fisher is asking for. How long is Dish willing to continue before it becomes cost prohibitive?

  9. I was checking my guide today (Saturday Jan 17, 2009) and it shows “Paid Programming” at 3:30 pm and “Animal Rescue” at 4:00 pm and more programming after that. Are we getting Fisher back? Can anyone confirm/deny?

  10. I got dishnetwork in order to get local channels as I have NO reception where I live and work. since local channels are free to everyone else I do not think they should be charging AT ALL for any cable or satellite to rebroadcast them. I would not have dishnetwork if I could get anything via antenna. Advertisers support Fisher, do not support the advertisers.
    Anybody have a list of fisher advertisers so I can let them know I won’t be buying anything from them, ever.

  11. I went on the Fisher website to see when the contract with Direct TV expired and found out it is in May 2009. I wonder if they will cave to Fishers demands so that they won’t have all the backlash from all the people who switched from Dish to Direct.
    I hope that Dish manages to stay strong and win this battle and Direct understands that they should be paying close attention and hoping Dish wins.
    I know it’s a dog eat dog world and Direct is profiting right now but they better think hard about what their position will be when it’s their turn.
    I will remain a Dish customer and make sure I let Fisher know how unhappy I am with their unfairly trying to make both ends pay.
    If Fisher wins the rest of the Networks will be fast behind them and once again we the consumers will pay the price.

  12. I’ve subscribed to Dish Network for about 10 years. I’m in an area that has borderline reception, both analog and digital. The quality of over-the-air HD is superior to DN’s HD signal, no question about it. The problem is the digital signal falls off a cliff a couple minutes of each hour (that’s how borderline it is).

    Although I’m still unhappy with both Dish Network and Fisher, it seems after following this for two months that Fisher is the bigger problem, for all the reasons Nanook already wrote.

    As for saying Dish should distribute the signal because it’s free, that doesn’t take into effect the cost of the satellites and other equipment needed to bring it to us.

    Addresses for Fisher and DN can be found at the WA Attorney General’s site here along with an invitation to complain through the AG’s site.

    My question now is whether anyone knows the FCC address that I can use for a complaint. They don’t make it easy to figure out who does what. I don’t expect it to do much, but I’ll feel better.

  13. Great discussion. Its age-old. Some of grew up with local stations provide public service so they get a free license. Then it became all congressmen get re-elected 97% of the time because of the TV-Campaign-Re-election cycle. Darwin would have concluded this trumps the strongest forces of nature. Then we get the, new digital spectrum….for free….for free!!!

    Why should we expect KOMO or KATU or any other Fischer station to care. They have Congressman X and Senator Y in their back pocket already.

    So what will the FCC do next? The just managed to kill XM & Sirrus, maybe they will kill Comcast, or Charter, or Dishnetwork or DirectTV. Stay tuned, don’t turn that dial!!

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