German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF have received a setback in the legal dispute regarding cable carriage fees that has been running since 2013.
The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf decided in favour of the cable operators on July 12, 2017. The public broadcasters, hence, have to pay a total of around €3.5 million for cable distribution of their channels. The court case only covered the carriage fees for the year 2013 and Q1 2016.
The legal dispute centres on the question whether the public broadcasters are obliged to pay fees for the distribution of their channels on cable networks. Until 2012, the broadcasters paid the cable operator who took them to court more than €20 million per year. The basis for the payments was a carriage contract signed in 2008. In spring 2011, the broadcasters jointly decided to cancel the contract and stop their payments.
In the opinion of the court, the carriage contract from 2008 has not been effectively cancelled, meaning that the broadcasters are still obliged to pay carriage fees. The cancellation declarations of the broadcasters are violating anti-trust laws, according to the court, as they have not been made for individual economic reasons, but on the grounds of a jointly made agreement and that is not allowed. The court adds that there is reason to assume that, in fact, the information exchange between the broadcasters which undisputedly took place was the reason for the contract cancellations announced in June 2012.
The court did not allow another appeal against its decision. It remains to be seen how ARD and ZDF react to the verdict. “ARD has today received the explanation of the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf for its judgement in the case Vodafone Kabel Deutschland GmbH against ARD from July 12, 2017,” an ARD spokeswoman told Broadband TV News, adding that the decision is contradictory to previous court rulings made in the case. ARD is currently evaluating the comprehensive, 70-page explanation of the decision, the spokeswoman said. “On this basis, a decision will be made regarding further legal action.”