German platform operators don’t have to distribute TV channels’ HbbTV services on their networks as they are not considered to be part of the programme content. This decision was made by the German media authorities’ licencing and supervision commission ZAK at its latest assembly in Saarbrücken.
In a formal process lodged at the media authorities, public broadcaster ARD complained that cable operator Kabel Deutschland filters out the HbbTV signal ahead of cable carriage of several ARD channels. This would infringe the signal integrity stipulated in the German broadcast law.
The HbbTV signal activates the red button on the corresponding TV channel. This enables viewers, for example, to access add-on services through the remote control such as the channel’s catch-up service.
According to ZAK, the HbbTV signal is, however, neither technically nor with regards to content part of the transport stream of the broadcast signal. The term “programme” in the broadcast law only covers the actual broadcast content – video and sound -, but not further services just accompanying the programmes, argue the media regulators.
ZAK also didn’t agree with ARD’s position that the stipulation of signal integrity would resemble a complete disapproval of technical modifications of the signals. In the view of the media authorities, modifications of the broadcast signals performed to achieve compliance with the corresponding platform standard must be possible.
The media authorities also didn’t agree with ARD’s accusation that there has been an unjustified breach of equal treatment regarding the data rate provided to TV channels on cable. The data rates correspond with the platform standard, argues ZAK. If commercial channels are distributed in higher picture quality, then this would be based on contractual agreements, thus, ARD would not be able to refer to this.
The background of the conflict is the long-standing dispute between the public broadcasters and the large cable operators regarding cable carriage conditions.