Kabel Deutschland to sue ARD and ZDF in cable fee row

Jörn Krieger | 31-07-2012

The dispute regarding cable carriage fees in Germany will go to court: Germany's largest cable operator Kabel Deutschland wants to sue public broadcasters ARD and ZDF following their announcement to drop carriage payments from 2013.

"We are convinced to have the right arguments on our side and we are determined to push our position through in court, also in the interest of our customers," CEO Adrian von Hammerstein told German daily newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung".

He bases his arguments on an assessment which media scientists Hans-Heinrich Trute and Roland Broemel from Hamburg's University have compiled on behalf of Kabel Deutschland. The experts conclude that ARD and ZDF must continue paying a fee for carriage of their channels. They would be obliged to do so by the federal German broadcast law as cable distribution would be crucial for ensuring national availability of their channels throughout Germany.

"It can't be that ARD and ZDF refuse concluding a partnership-based solution in the carriage fee dispute for cable customers who resemble 50% of their public licence fee payers," said von Hammerstein. "For our part, we have clearly signalled that we are willing to enter negotiations."

ARD and ZDF cancelled their carriage deals with Germany's three largest cable operators Kabel Deutschland, Unitymedia and Kabel BW in June 2012, arguing that carriage fees would be an outdated relict dating back to the time when Germany's federal post office Bundespost built up the cable infrastructure with support from the broadcasters.

The cable operators - now in the hands of private investors - would earn high amounts of money through the commercialisation of cable subscriptions, argue the public broadcasters. They also point to the requirement of equal treatment of all market players: Smaller cable operators, IPTV platform providers like Deutsche Telekom or internet portals such as Zattoo would distribute their channels without receiving payments.