Tropical Storm Karen: Dish Temporarily Restores Some Blacked-Out TV Stations

Gulfport, Mississippi

Four of the 18 Media General stations that have been dark since Sept. 30 will return over the weekend so viewers can get up-to-date info on weather conditions.

Some things are more important than retransmission consent disputes -- in this case, Tropical Storm Karen bearing down on the American Gulf Coast, where it is expected to reach land by sometime Saturday.

That is why on Friday the Dish Network said it would restore carriage of Media General TV stations in parts of Mississippi and Alabama for at least the weekend, despite a blackout of all 18 of the company’s outlets that began Sept. 30 over stalled negotiations on a new contract.

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Dish reached out to Media General on Friday even though there are no current negotiations about restoring service to Mississippi stations in Jackson and Hattiesburg or Alabama stations in Mobile and Birmingham.

"We are pleased Media General broke its silence and agreed with our request to serve viewers," said Dish executive vp Dave Shull.

Media General was in agreement. "Providing our viewers with important weather and safety information during storms is an integral part of our responsibility to our local communities," said George L. Mahoney, president/CEO of Media General.

As of Friday, it did not appear Tropical Storm Karen would reach hurricane status, but that won’t be known for sure until it reaches land. Tracking the hurricane has also been disrupted, according to media reports, because some government employees have been laid off due to the federal government shutdown.

The current blackout is the first in company history, according to Media General, which had extended the deadline 90 days past the original contract expiration.

Dish wanted to keep extending until Media General is acquired by Young Broadcasting, probably later this year, because Dish has an existing retransmission agreement with Young that would then cover the situation. Media General declined to comment.

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The blackout of Media General stations, which are primarily in Southeastern U.S. markets, comes as Dish continues discussions with ABC/Disney over the contract to continue to carry ABC stations, ESPN and other Disney-owned networks such as ABC Family. There was an extension at the 11th hour to keep the stations on the air while talks continue, but that was deemed "short term" and is not expected to last much longer.

The Media General stations being restored at 6 a.m. EST on Saturday at least though midnight Monday are WJTV in Jackson, Ms.; WHLT in Hattiesburg, Ms.; WKRG in Mobile, Ala.; and WVTM in Birmingham, Ala.