German cable operator NetCologne must not distribute some commercial channels for a fee while it still carries other commercial channels without a fee.
This decision was made by the German media authorities’ licensing and supervision commission ZAK.
As part of the introduction of a new business model, NetCologne had been gradually converting the carriage contracts it held with broadcasters to new contracts since 2015.
This led to the situation that some channels already had to pay for their distribution while others didn’t. As a consequence, several complaints – from Sport1 and others – were submitted at LfM, the local media authority responsible for NetCologne.
According to the German broadcast law, it is not permitted to treat equal broadcasters unequally without a justified reason. The fact that the platform operator doesn’t succeed in pushing through the new model among all broadcasters at the same time due to the market position of individual channels or channel groups, does not constitute a suitable justification, according to ZAK.
The regulators underline that platform operators are allowed to introduce new contracts and thereby new business models. But there must not be a transition period in which some broadcasters already have to pay for carriage of their channels through the platform operator while others don’t have to pay.
“Such a practice of contract conversion contradicts the interdiction of discrimination,” said ZAK chairman Siegfried Schneider. “Equal broadcasters have to be treated equally. NetCologne is therefore requested to actively reconstitute equal treatment.” Otherwise there would be the danger of the unequal treatment – in particular of smaller commercial broadcasters – to be further cemented.
ZAK’s objection as well as the corresponding request for equal treatment of broadcasters have been submitted to NetCologne by LfM.
NetCologne declined to issue a statement on the allegations. “We ask for your understanding that we don’t want to comment on an ongoing case,” a spokesperson told Broadband TV News.