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Scoop: Univision tells FTC, FCC that Dish misled customers

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Univision has written to the heads of the FCC and FTC alleging that Dish has been deceptively marketing Univision programming as part of Dish's pay-TV services to consumers, even though the two parties have failed to reach an agreement to air Univision's content for months, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: It's the latest and most aggressive step by the Hispanic broadcaster to get the telecom giant to agree to a fee, known as a retransmission agreement, that would put Univision's programming back on air for millions of Dish customers.

What they're saying: In the letter, Univision says that in response to letters from its lawyers and from the North Carolina Attorney General's office (which had received a complaint from a Latino advocacy group), Dish made unacceptable excuses for continuing to market Univision programming to its pay-TV consumers.

  • Univision say Dish argues that it can't control all of the independent agents of its marketing and that it was an oversight that Dish still markets Univision's programming on its website as part of a Latino add-on package to its Pay-TV service.
  • In a statement, Dish responded, "We look forward to reviewing the letter and responding. Regarding claims Univision has been making, when Univision chose to remove its channels from Dish and DishLATINO customers, our team worked to remove references to the impacted channels on marketing materials and web properties. The logos of some Univision channels were inadvertently left within the cart flow of one of our add-on package offerings. Upon learning of this oversight, we worked quickly to remove the logos."

Between the lines: Univision is asking the FTC and FCC to look into this because it's alleging that consumers, when made aware that they wouldn't get the programming that had been promoted, were forced to pay fees for cancelling Dish services up to $480.

Be smart: Arguments like these happen all the time between pay-TV providers (cable and satellite companies) and TV networks (broadcast and cable companies). And in a tough economic environment for media, they're happening even more frequently than ever.

Still, this fight has been particularly messy for a few reasons:

  1. Dish boss Charlie Ergen has a reputation for being a tough negotiator when it comes to these types of agreements. (Ergen told analysts in August that the dispute between the two parties is "probably permanent.")
  2. The mobilization of support for Univision coming mostly from Latino advocacy groups has been aggressive and public.
  3. In a suit filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Univision asserts that Dish still owes the broadcaster millions in retransmission fees and interest.
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