EC to probe Latvian DTT award

By Chris Dziadul
December 2, 2009 08.26 UK

The European Commission is to look into a complaint by the leading Latvian cable operator Baltkom that a DTT licence was awarded unfairly to the incumbent telco Lattelecom.

Baltkom says it has been informed that the Commission will test the “legality of conduct, and evaluate whether the Latvian State Radio and Television Centre (LVRTC) did not receive undue state aid”. Baltkom claims that both Lattelecom and LVRTC received a large amount of illegal state aid, enabling the telco to acquire exclusive spectrum bands for the use of commercial activities at improperly low cost.

TeliaSonera-backed Lattelecom was awarded a DTT licence in January and launched a service during the summer. It also operates Lattelcom TV, the country’s only IPTV platform.

In a separate development, Lattelecom has issued a statement categorically denying claims by LNT and TV3, the country’s two leading commercial stations, that digital broadcasting is more expensive than analogue. Indeed, according to the telco it is 30% cheaper and reaches 99% of Latvian territory, whereas analogue covers only 50-87%. Lattelecom says broadcasters’ decision as to whether or not to remain free or become pay channels is being affected by the economic situation and slump in the advertising market rather than the high cost of digital broadcasting, as they claim.