There’s much more to the dispute between United Media and Telekom Srbija than first meets the eye.
The so-called ‘cable war’ between the two companies, with the latter also speaking for a grouping of operators known as Supernova, has been represented as being solely about the carriage of United Media channels on cable networks.
Local reports, including one on the station Prva TV, have quoted Telekom Srbija as saying that United Media is unwilling to enter into an agreement with the operators. In fact, they claim that Supernova has accepted the main elements of United Media’s offer, namely a price tag of €20 million and a contract period of three years, with its only demand being for the text of the contract to be the same as previous ones. United Media, on the other hand, stands accused of constantly changing the terms of the contract – something it clearly denies.
Indeed, the company has provided Broadband TV News with detailed statements about the dispute. These arguably go to the heart of the matter, highlighting the major problems the company has – and continues to face – in operating in the country. The most recent statement, published on the site of United Media’s N1 TV site, effectively calls on the Commission for Protection of Competition to secure it with equal rights in line with the law in Serbia.
It then goes on to discuss previous instances in which this in its view was not the case. For instance, when United Media acquired the operator Ikom the Commission imposed strict conditions, whereas it failed to do so – and indeed neglected information supplied by United Media – when Telekom Srbija took over a number of cable operators.
United Media also accuses the Commission of taking a number of measures against it while at the same time failing to act against Telekom Srbija for its actions.
There is, of course, a political dimension to all this, with United Media’s parent company United Group having in recent months been criticised by the Serbian PM and other senior government officials for allegedly operating as a monopoly. United Group have strong denied these claims and insist they operate with full respect for all Serbian and European laws.