German cable operator association FRK wants to achieve that small and medium-sized cable operators receive carriage fees from public broadcasters ARD and ZDF just like the two largest players Vodafone and Unitymedia.
FRK accuses ARD and ZDF of unequal treatment as the broadcasters are unwilling to pay carriage fees to smaller cable companies and has announced to take the case to the Federal Cartel Office.
“It is not acceptable that public broadcasters abuse their market power and deny SMATV operators and small and medium-sized cable companies the payment of fees they grant to the two dominant cable operators,” said FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte.
As an out-of-court agreement could not be reached between FRK and the public broadcasters, the association will now have this practice reviewed by the Federal Cartel Office with the support of law firm Schalast.
The move follows the end of the long-standing carriage fee dispute between ARD and ZDF and the two major cable operators Vodafone (formerly Kabel Deutschland) and Unitymedia. In the settlements announced in April 2018, the parties agreed on new, long-term partnerships for cable distribution and the addition of HD channels and catch-up content from the public broadcasters to their line-up. According to Vodafone, the agreements with ARD and ZDF include carriage fees for the cable distribution of the regular, linear channels.
As part of the settlements, ARD and ZDF pay Vodafone €100 million while ARD pays Unitymedia €31.2 million in compensation for unpaid carriage fees during the legal dispute. No agreement is yet in place between ZDF and Unitymedia with the legal case continuing.
FRK represents almost 140 small and medium-sized cable operators as well as infrastructure providers serving a total of more than five million households in Germany with cable TV.