1-0 for German pubcasters vs cable

Legal decisionSTORY UPDATED WITH KABEL DEUTSCHLAND STATEMENT. The district courts in Cologne and Stuttgart have dismissed claims of Kabel Deutschland against public broadcasters WDR and SWR respectively.

The rulings in first instance of the two courts seem to clear the way for the public broadcasters to enjoy free distribution of their chanenls on the nation;s cable networks.

Kabel Deutschland argued that the cable with a market share of almost 50%, is a distribution channel to which the public broadcaster could not refrain to ensure its public service.

According to the cabler, it is not fair that ARD and ZDF would continue to pay for their satellite and DTT distribution, while the cable operators were required to distribute the channels without financial compensation.

The two courts, however, point to the fact that the ARD broadcasters have rightfully cancelled their distribution agreement with the opertor. It is at the discretion of ARD and ZDF to select their distribution channels.

With nationwide distribution via satellite and DTT the public broadcasters have sufficiently covered their public broadcasting task. The courts said that the inequality in remuneration for the distribution between satellite, terrestrial and cable is compensated by the fact that cable opertors are the only distribution partners that are able to charge its customers.

The courts are also of the opinion, that the digital diustribution of the public channels on their analogue networks are a significnt marketing tool for selling their television products to the public.

In an emailed statement to Broadband TV News, Kabel Deutschland said: “We think that a claim with such complex points of law cannot be ruled in the first instance. We are still convinced of our legal position that the public broadcasters have to pay for the feed-in of their programs into our cable net. We will continue our way through the court instances. However, Kabel Deutschland is still open for talks and an amicable agreement.”

Daniela Beaujean, counsel of the association of broadcasters VPRT, does not want to draw conclusions from these first two rejections.

“Regardless of the outcome, these are just first instance judgments,” Beaujean told Broadband TV News Germany.

The next court cases in wth regards to the carriage fee disputes are on April 19 in Mannheim, on April 25 in Muncih and on April 30 in Berlin.

The VPRT will follow further decisions with interest. “The arguments of the courts in Cologne and Stuttgart are supported by us,” said the lawyer. “After all, the courts make clear that only content allows for the successful marketing of cable TV services.

The final decision in the case between the cable operators and public broadcasters will also affect the relation of with the private channels.