• Decision is win for broadcasters, loss for cable and Dish TV
  • NBA finals were threatened in recent fee negotiations

The Federal Communications Commission won’t write new rules to govern fee disputes that sometimes lead to program outages on pay-TV services, Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blow to cable and satellite providers and a boost to broadcasters.

“What we need is not more rules, but for both sides in retransmission consent negotiations to take seriously their responsibility to consumers,” Wheeler said in an e-mailed statement released Thursday.

Disputes between pay-TV providers and broadcasters over fees have intensified in recent years. Program suppliers seek higher charges to offset rising production costs and sluggish ad revenue. TV distributors like Dish Network Corp. have been battling rising content costs that drive customer bills higher and push subscribers to cheaper alternatives like streaming videos from Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

Dish has routinely fought in public with programming partners, including a protracted dispute with Viacom Inc. earlier this year and an ongoing disagreement with Tribune Media Co. that’s blacked out 42 local channels in 33 markets since last month. Among the programs threatened in that dispute were NBA finals games and the Tony Awards.

Broadcasters Win

The American Television Alliance, an advocacy group with members including Dish, AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV and Charter Communications Inc., had urged the FCC to claim authority to order broadcast shows back onto pay-TV systems -- a step Wheeler didn’t take.

The National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group with members including CBS Corp., Comcast Corp.’s NBC, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and 21st Century Fox Inc. said it “applauds” Wheeler’s decision. “The vast majority of these negotiations are successfully concluded without incident or impasse,” Dennis Wharton, the group’s spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Wheeler said the FCC has authority “to help to bring negotiations to a conclusion.” The agency is reviewing whether Dish and Tribune have fulfilled requirements to act in good faith, Wheeler said. “If that review reveals a dereliction of duty on the part of one or both parties, I will not hesitate to recommend appropriate commission action,” Wheeler said. He didn’t offer details.

Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune, and Bob Toevs, a Dish spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail.

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