Why is one of Europe’s leading broadcasters so unpopular in Hungary at the moment?
Well the short answer is that it – or more correctly RTL Klub, the national commercial broadcaster in which RTL group holds a 49% stake – has taken the controversial decision to charge cable operators a fee for the distribution of what is essentially a FTA service.
That in it itself may not sound like a ‘big deal’, but it certainly is to the Hungarian cable industry. Speaking exclusively to Broadband TV News at Tihany earlier this week, Ferenc Kéry, the president of the HCA, said that in practice the move could result in the doubling of subscription fees charged for the smallest packages. Needless to say, this is hardly the best way to retain one’s customers in what is a tough economic climate.
Kéry made the point that if the cable industry accepts the increase, then TV2, Hungary’s second national commercial broadcaster, could weigh in with a demand of its own.
He also took note of what happened previously in neighbouring Romania, as was described by Radu Petric, the president of the ACC. There, the national commercial station Antena 1 also attempted to introduce a fee but was stopped from doing so by concerted action by the cable industry.
Something similar may happen in Hungary, especially if leading players such as UPC come on board. The latter’s Laszló Szücs nevertheless expressed a conciliatory tone when he said: “Broadcasters and providers shouldn’t wage war. If RTL provides us with arguments, which it has not, then we can be partners.”
The unfortunate thing about the RTL controversy is that it overshadowed other, equally important issues discussed at the conference. These included the new media law, which according to Ferenc Kéry has been broken down into sections, with the next to be addressed being of great relevance to the cable industry.
Although delegates wanted clarity about the new Hungarian government’s plans for the media industry as a whole, it was unfortunately in short supply.
Even a commitment to the current ASO date was qualified by the statement that the international situation would be monitored.