If you watch Comedy Central, chances are you’ve seen a strange and irritating message scrolling across the screen recently. It says something about Dish Network subscribers losing access to the channels they have paid for. It’s actually a complete lie; here’s the real story:

Viacom own CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and a bunch of other channels. Their contract with Dish Network was coming to an end. Their terms for the new contract were: (1) You pay us an extra 7%, and (2) You carry all of our channels as part of your basic lineup whether the customer wants them or not.

Dish Network balked at this. They know that customers are sick of having one humongous expensive package that contains dozens of channels they never watch. So, Dish said that they would drop the Viacom channels from their basic package—but that anybody who wanted them could pay the extra cost and get them.

Viacom threw a hissy fit, and said that if Dish didn’t force all their customers to pay for every Viacom channel whether they wanted them all or not, they wouldn’t be allowed to carry any Viacom channels—not even CBS, available over the airwaves for free to anyone with a wire loop antenna.

Dish still refused to back down, so Viacom started putting the scrolling messages on all their channels. In spite of the fact that it’s Viacom threatening to take the channels away from Dish Network subscribers, Viacom are lying that it’s Dish Network’s fault, and telling people to call Dish Network and complain. Dish’s response has been to file a lawsuit to try and prevent Viacom from using its media power to force people to buy its channels. Dish has also been covering up the lies with black rectangles.

Obviously I’m siding with Dish Network on this one. To get the handful of channels we watch, we have to pay for over 50 channels we never watch. I’d like to ditch those channels and use the money to pay for HBO instead, but it’s not going to happen unless someone stands up to companies like Viacom and Disney and forces them to let it happen. Disney pulls the same tricks—it forces the cable companies to make expensive Disney channels like ESPN part of the basic lineup, or else they’re not allowed to carry ABC.

Ironically, the Viacom channels are amongst those I’d pay to receive if I had the choice.

So, please spread the word, contact the FTC, whatever.