The Nexstar TV stations, KSNF and KODE, were quick to jump on a news story that happened in Joplin a few weeks ago.
Many of you will remember the coverage of a band of hardy protesters who picketed against evil Cable One for taking a chance on losing its beloved local stations.
From the coverage, it appeared that the protest was a grass roots effort to support the local stations...something which, even though it would be a tad self-serving, would be a legitimate news story.
The only thing that was left somewhat obscured in the coverage was the source of the protest, and that source appears to be EchoStar, owner of Dish Network and a competitor of Cable One's in the race to land local television customers. Also left unmentioned was the fact that every customer who leaves Cable One and goes to Dish Network puts more money into the pockets of Nexstar Broadcasting.
Echostar has targeted rival cable companies across the United States in what is called "guerilla marketing."
One such protest was held Jan. 13 in Seattle, Wash., according to the Jan. 14 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The article began, "Yesterday, a small group of people paraded in front of Comcast and City Hall, protesting Comcast's recent 7.1 percent rate increase. The only thing is, they weren't customers. They were competitors---DISH Network employees and some of its vendors, to be precise."
Kelley Baca, a DISH Network spokeswoman, told the Post-Intelligencer, "The reason why we demonstrate is to bring awareness that customers can count on a cable rate increase every year."
The Post-Intelligencer didn't let that answer go unchallenged, noting that DISH Network is increasing its own prices as of Feb. 1. Ms. Baca admitted that was the case but termed it a "one-time thing based on a one-time cost."
Good reporters don't let self-serving answers like that go unchallenged. The Post-Intelligencer finally got Ms. Baca to confirm that DISH Network has increased its prices five times in the past five years
DISH Network also staged a protest across from Time-Warner Cable in Raleigh, N. C. recently, to protest that company's rate increases, according to the Raleigh newspaper. The protesters at that rally were employees of DISH Network and one of its local retailers.
Another protest was held in Oklahoma City. I would guess there have been others that did not receive the publicity DISH Network had hoped for.
An article in Satellite Industry Daily News said, "Using its DISH Network service and brand, EchoStar has launched a nationwide advertising campaign that prompts consumers to ask why digital cable TV prices have gone up while prices for many other digital electronic goods, like digital watches, cameras or digital video recorders, continue to fall."
As part of the campaign, the article said, DISH Network retailers and sometimes customers are asked to join together to protest high cable prices.
This is not a knock at the satellite dish industry or at Echostar. The company has the right to fight for a larger share of the market and there is nothing illegal about these tactics. The problem surfaced when one of these staged protests was treated like legitimate news by two TV stations with a vested financial interest in the outcome.
Even that can be forgiven...if the newscast features a statement detailing that financial interest and lets the viewers make their own judgment about the validity of the news.