The dispute regarding the question whether German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF have to pay carriage fees to the large cable operators has gained a new chapter.
As the cable companies haven’t been able to push through their interests in court so far, they are now trying to mandate carriage payments with political support.
In a joint statement, the telecommunications companies assembled in industry alliance Netzallianz Digitales Deutschland and the Federal German minister for digital infrastructure, Alexander Dobrindt, demand from the chairwoman of the broadcast commission of the federal states as well as from the heads of the state and senate chancelleries legal establishment of clarification concerning the unresolved cable fee issue, according to German financial newspaper Handelsblatt. Dobrindt wants to send the statement to the federal states shortly, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure confirmed.
The cable distribution of the public broadcasters’ main channels is mandated as must carry status in the national broadcast law and in the federal states’ media laws. The dispute focuses on the question whether ARD and ZDF have to pay carriage fees to the cable operators for their retransmission service.
Until the end of 2012, both broadcasters payed a total of around €60 million in carriage fees per year, but, for historic reasons, only to the large cable companies. The other cable operators, IPTV operators and internet TV providers distribute the channels without financial compensation.
In June 2012, ARD and ZDF cancelled their cable carriage contracts with Kabel Deutschland (now Vodafone) and Unitymedia effective December 31, 2012, arguing that the payments were not in line with current market conditions any longer. The cable companies have been challenging the public broadcasters’ decision in court since then, but without much success, while continuing carriage of their channels as required by law.
The demand by the industry alliance and the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure not only calls for legal clarification, according to Handelsblatt. An “appropriate payment” for the distribution should be ensured, requests the statement leaked to the newspaper.
A law mandating carriage payments could lead to a chain reaction. In the past, smaller cable operators have been demanding to put an end to the unequal treatment and start paying them carriage fees. If carriage fees are legally stipulated, not only Vodafone and Unitymedia will hold out their hands.