A row has broken out between Vodafone Deutschland and Saarländischer Rundfunk (SR), the affiliate of public broadcaster ARD serving federal state Saarland, regarding HD cable distribution of its TV channel SR Fernsehen with both sides accusing each other of blocking carriage.
Vodafone refuses to distribute SR Fernsehen HD on its cable networks in Saarland, criticises SR, adding that this was an “intolerable situation”, not least because all regional ARD channels were now available on cable in HD except the channel for Saarland. SR therefore advises affected viewers to opt for DVB-T2 or a satellite dish to receive SR Fernsehen in HD quality.
“The cable customers in Saarland have a right to watch their favourite local TV programmes in high definition. There must not be a two-class society, split into DTH and DTT viewers on one side and cable viewers on the other,” said Wolfgang Krause, chairman of SR’s board.
“As the cable operator serving Saarland has repeatedly not complied with the requests by Saarländischer Rundfunk to finally also carry SR Fernsehen in HD quality, viewers are forced to use other distribution infrastructures,” added Krause.
Vodafone, however, puts the blame on SR. “As Germany’s largest TV provider, our interest lies in our viewers being able to access an attractive channel package while SR is interested in offering its programmes to a broad audience in HD quality,” a Vodafone Deutschland spokeswoman told Broadband TV News.
“We have repeatedly offered SR discussions to negotiate the carriage conditions. All the more, we regret that SR continues to hold onto its blocking of negotiations – at the expense of the licence fee payers in Saarland,” said the spokeswoman, adding that the statement by SR’s board was therefore “incomprehensible” for Vodafone. The company was, however, still prepared to negotiate the contractual modalities of a carriage with SR.
The background of the dispute is the legal battle that has been going on for years regarding the question whether public broadcasters ARD and ZDF have to pay carriage fees to the cable operators for the distribution of their channels. When the quarrel started, Kabel Deutschland (now Vodafone) decided that the legal case should not take place at the expense of its customers, according the company. Consequently, all regional TV channels operated by ARD’s affiliates were also distributed in HD quality. SR – and Radio Bremen – weren’t provided in high resolution at the time.
In the meantime, several court decisions were made. However, it seems that none of the parties involved want to change the current situation ahead of a final settlement to avoid creating facts that could negatively impact their negotiation position.