The antitrust proceedings initiated by the Polish competition authority UOKIK against Telewizja Polsat and Discovery have come as no surprise.
Whether they will result in punitive action being taken against the two parties remains to be seen.
Anyone who follows the Polish market will know that there has for some time been criticism of the way broadcasters sell their content to TV operators. Indeed, UOKiK says it has received many complaints from operators, trade associations and consumers “relating to the limitation of the freedom to develop channel offers or select TV channels”.
Looking specifically at Telewizja Polsat and Discovery, it adds that they sell packages of 28 and at least six channels respectively, making the acquisition of individual channels from the two groups unprofitable for operators. In fact, just two Polsat channels would cost them more than the entire 28-channel package.
Needless to say, this impacts negatively on both operators and consumers. At the same time, it maintains the dominant position Telewizja Polsat and Discovery occupy in the marketplace and stifles competition.
UOKiK has within its power to fine Telewizja Polsat and Discovery up to 10% of their annual turnover for abusing their position.
Although individual cable operators have yet to comment on the antitrust proceedings, the Union of Electric Media and Telecommunications Employers (MEDIAKOM) has issued a statement saying it has previously notified UOKIK three times about possible violations of the law, including antitrust law. It has called for the elimination of such practices applied by broadcasters, which in its opinion discriminate against cable operators and their customers, and therefore welcomes UOKIK’s against Telewizja Polsat and Discovery. Together, the two broadcasters account for two-thirds of Polish TV viewers.
Meanwhile, Jerzy Straszewski, the president of the Polish Chamber of Electronic Communications (PIKE), has told local media that the cable industry has been waiting for the UOKIK’s intervention in the matter for a long time. In his view, the broadcasters’ practices impact negatively on the functioning of the entire TV market.
Perhaps not surprisingly, such practices are not confined to Poland. In Romania, for instance, similar regulatory actions have been taken against broadcasters but ultimately failed to change anything. The ball is now very much in UOKiK’s court.
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