The German monopoly authority Bundeskartellamt has raided the offices of the country’s two main private broadcasters, the RTL Group and ProSiebenSat.1, probing their plans to encrypt their signals.
The Kartellamt confirmed the raids, but declined to name the broadcasters involved. According to local reports, the action took place in the Cologne offices of RTL and Munich headquarters of ProSiebenSat.1. Spokespersons of the two broadcasters have confirmed the actions.
The authority is currently investigating plans by the broadcasters to encrypt their channels and introduce a number of measures which would prohibit ad skipping and limit recoding on hard disks. The two broadcasters are already part of the HD+ platform on the Astra satellite for their HD versions, but their SD channels remain free-to-air on satellite.
According to tests in German consumer publications, time shifting of the five channels in the HD+ bouquet (RTL HD, Vox HD, ProSieben HD, Sat.1 HD and kabeleins HD) is only possible for up to 90 minutes after the start of the broadcast. After the 90 minutes window, access to the start of the recorded programme is nog longer possible.
In Germany, encryption of “free TV” channels is a heavily debated issue with the public broadcasters insisting that their channels are available FTA on all platforms including satellite. The broadcasters also prohibit cable operators to encrypt their signals on the networks.
It is not the first time that the Kartellamt raids the offices of the two broadcasters. In 2007 the authority investigated the sale of commercial airtime by the two groups, which resulted in hefty fines for RTL (€96 million) and ProSiebenSat.1 (€120 million).