Eutelsat has found itself increasingly in the spotlight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although the operator derives just over 6% of its revenues from Russian customers, it remains – controversially, in the light of current circumstances – a key distributor of services in the country. Indeed, its 36B and 36E satellites at 36 degrees East are the leading neighbourhood in Russia and CIS, reaching 50% of TV homes via mostly the DTH platforms Tricolor and NTV-Plus. Added to that are the 56 degrees and 140 degrees East slots, served by the Express AT1 and AT2 satellites respectively. These are owned and operated by Russia’s RSCC, with Eutelsat having contracted a 15-year lease for transponders on both, again for mainly Tricolor and NTV-Plus.
Eutelsat has argued, most recently in its latest set of results, that it “upholds a commitment to neutrality and is therefore guided by sanctions and the decisions of competent regulatory bodies”. As a result, it “immediately implemented” EU regulations suspending the broadcasting activities of Russian TV stations such as Russia Today (RT). Furthermore, the OneWeb low-orbit constellation, in which it owns a 22.9% stake, has suspended the remaining six launches planned from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
However, it has been criticised for continuing to work with Tricolor and NTV-Plus, despite the two platforms having excluded all international news channels from their offer at the beginning of March following restrictions imposed by the Russian government. A petition drawn up by the Denis Diderot Committee, an organisation created last month by the media experts André Lange and Jim Phillipoff – the latter founded the Ukrainian DTH platform Xtra TV – has called on the EU to sanction the distribution of Tricolor and NTV-Plus.
Although the Denis Diderot Committee says its petition is mainly directed at the EU and in particular France’s President Macron, with France also currently holding the presidency of the Council of the EU, it also believes Eutelsat has a moral responsibility to act rather than wait for a decision from the European authorities.
As an interesting footnote, in a speech at the EPRA Meeting in Antwerp on May 12, Olha Herasymiuk, the president of the Ukrainian regulator National Council, called for all contracts with Russian media structures to be terminated. “What amount of money for Eutelsat or SES can justify the constant impact on the brains of those who have chosen Europe as their place to live?”
According to an unnamed source, the regulator appears to be prioritising obtaining bans on Russian channels targeting Europe rather than Russia itself.
For more information about Chris Dziadul, please visit https://www.chrisdziadul.com