Viewers in both The Netherlands and Belgium are concerned about analogue switch-off on their cable nets. In Germany cablers recently said they will continue to support analogue.
Kabelraden.nl, the umbrella organisation of the local cable programme councils, has expressed its concerns about plans by Ziggo, the country’s largest operator, to remove major foreign public channels such as ZDF and BBC2 from their analogue tier. This is part of the operator’s plan to bring down the number of analogue channels in order to make room for more digital channels.
Kabelraden.nl said Ziggo is not following the recommendations of the various local programme councils and removing channels such as TV5, TVE and RAI-Uno. According to a spokesperson for the operator, these channels remain available in basic digital but will no longer be available in analogue, as research shows very few people actually watch them.
“Ziggo simply has to follow the advice of the programme councils,” said Kabelraden.nl’s Pablo Meegdes. “These councils are created by the legislature to ensure a diverse range of programming. This means that Ziggo not only has to distribute the seven ‘must carry’ channels, but at least eight channels recommended by the councils. Above the mandatory number of 15 analogue channels, Ziggo is free to choose ”
Ziggo is of the opinion that its basic digital TV offer is the norm, not analogue. Its basic digital tier (TV Standaard) consists of 63 SD channels, 11 HD channels and catch-up TV and VOD access and costs €16.95; analogue is included in the price, with the number of channels to be reduced gradually during the next years. This summer, Ziggo will bring down the number of analogue channels from 30 to 25.
By contrast, UPC Nederland, the country’s second largest operator, has not issued any statements about a reduction of the number of analogue channels. In the recent past, the cabler has stated that analogue remains part of the offer for the time being and that there is no time-table set for analogue switch-off.
In Belgium, the Flemish media council VRM (Vlaamse Regulator voor de Media) has ruled that Numericable must carry at least Dutch public broadcasters as part of the basic analogue tier; the operator has argued that it is carrying the Dutch stations as part of its basic digital tier, but the VRM has ruled that since the operator serves the Flemish communities of Wemmel and Drogenbos must carry them in analogue. The regulator also issued a €2,000 fine.
Meanwhile, in Germany, the three main cable operators gave their continued support for analogue distribution in a statement issued just before the opening of the ANGA Cable show. They said in the statement that they are committed to analogue cable distribution and will not force their customers to go digital.