Do dropped channels mean you can drop your satellite contract?

June 18, 2015
KUTV

Salt Lake City — (KUTV) Ted Hansgen is not shy about which is his favorite 24-hour news network channel.

"I spend a lot of time watching Fox News," he said.

So when Ted was propositioned to switch TV providers this past Spring, he made sure the new company, Dish Network, included the channel.

But within a few weeks of signing up Fox News was gone. The channel was dropped by Dish Network in a dispute between the two companies over money.

"I wasn't going to put up with that," Ted said.

Arguing that he is no longer getting the service for which he signed up, Ted called Dish Network to cancel but the satellite TV provider said it wasn't that simple.

"They started telling me about all these cancellation fees," Ted said.

Ted pointed out that Dish Network wasn't supplying the channels it advertised. Sure enough, Fox News is listed on the channel guide given to Ted with his contract.

His appeals got him nowhere and Ted was ordered to pay $460 or face collections.

"It's them that broke the contract, not me," he said.

Angry, Ted decided to Get Gephardt.

A Dish Network spokesperson told Get Gephardt, "Unfortunately, disputes between pay-tv providers and channel owners are not uncommon within the pay-tv industry."

The spokesperson also talked about what channels they do offer.

But that's not the channel for which Ted signed up, so does he have a case to get out of his contract?

Telecommunications attorney David Shaw says probably not.

"Typically that's a representative list of channels, not a definitive list of channels because channels come and go," Shaw said of the list of channels Ted was given.

Shaw says TV providers write contracts in a way that covers themselves, often saying things like channel listings are "subject to change."

So what can a consumer do to protect themselves if they're signing up for one specific channel or set of channels?

"When you sign up for service, write in the contract, 'I signed up for this channel and without this channel I expect to be able to get out without penalty,'" Shaw suggests.

As for Ted, after calls from Get Gephardt, Dish Network relented. The company opted to let Ted out of his contract free of change - even though it's likely they didn't legally have to let him out.

The dispute between Fox News and Dish Network has since been resolved with Fox News returning to the Dish Network lineup.

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