STORY UPDATED. German cable operators have to equally treat the operators of comparable TV channels regarding carriage fees – even if channels hold must carry status or a prominent market position.
This was decided by the German media authorities’ licencing and supervision commission ZAK at its latest assembly. Unequal treatment would infringe the broadcast law’s aim of ensuring a wide variety of offerings and players, said ZAK chairman Siegfried Schneider.
“All cable operators are free to decide whether to charge fees for their distribution services. But these fees have to be equal for all broadcasters,” stressed Schneider.
In the concrete case, broadcaster WeltN24 lodged a complaint against Tele Columbus. The cable operator has been charging WeltN24 a carriage fee for the digital distribution of news channel N24 in SD resolution on its cable network since January 2016.
Tele Columbus, however, continued to distribute comparable channels like Phoenix or n-tv at no charge, according to ZAK. This practice is contradictory to the stipulations of the federal broadcast law which prescribes equal treatment of broadcasters regarding tariffs and fees, argues the media authority.
The facts that Phoenix, as a public channel, holds must carry status while n-tv’s parent company RTL has a comparably high negotiation power don’t constitute justifying reasons, according to ZAK.
The cable operator has been granted a 1-month deadline following reception of the decision to remedy the situation.
Update, 16.05 CET: Tele Columbus has rejected the accusations. “The decision by ZAK is not comprehensible in our view as there is no unequal treatment of channels,” a Tele Columbus spokesman told Broadband TV News. “We generally demand carriage fees from all broadcasters for the content distribution on our networks. Consequently, there is no reason for complaint in our view.”
He added: “We can’t further comment on the case at this stage as we haven’t yet been issued with a formal notification regarding the decision.”