Bundeskartellamt raids RTL, okays ARD/ZDF
Published: 11.10 Europe/London, May 16, 2011 by Robert Briel

The German competition authority Bundeskartellamt has again raided the offices of the RTL Group in Cologne as part of a probe into the broadcaster’s plans to encrypt its signals. RTL confirmed to Focus magazine that the raid took place in February this year. Meanwhile, local press reports suggest the Kartellamt is to give its blessing to the proposed commercial VOD service from ARD and ZDF.

The raid of the RTL premises follows an earlier one last year, when both the RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 offices were searched. The new action was taken to gather ‘more evidence’. The authority is still investigating plans by the broadcasters to encrypt their channels and introduce a number of measures that would prohibit ad skipping and limit recording on hard disks. The two broadcasters are already part of the HD+ platform on the Astra satellite for their HD versions, but their SD channels remain free-to-air on satellite.

The authority is also wary of the plans by the two private broadcasters to launch a common VOD platform, in which all German broadcasters have been invited to take part, both public and private. In an initial reaction, the Kartellamt said it would not give the green light to such a venture, but RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 are now appealing.

Meanwhile, the authority seems to be positive over plans by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF to launch a premium VOD service with the working title Germany’s Gold, which would offer classic German TV movies and series. The outfit would be run by the commercial production and distribution entities owned by the pubcasters. No need to add that the private broadcasters are against such a set-up by the public broadcasters, who they feel are already privileged.