Switzerland enacts open set-top-box market

Jörn Krieger

Cable customers in Switzerland will be able to choose which digital receiver they want to use for TV reception from 2011. The Swiss parliament has approved the regulation and commissioned the government to prepare the appropriate legal framework.

The move is a reaction to the business practices of cable operators such as heavyweight Cablecom which utilise basic encryption for free-to-air TV channels on their networks, making reception possible only with a set-top-box for sale or rent from the cable company. The new law will permit encryption of free-to-air TV channels only under the condition that customers can choose their own receiver.

The initiative follows criticism from consumer protector Simonetta Sommaruga, who claims that the encryption of foreign and domestic free-to-air channels, as practised by Cablecom, is “competitively scandalous” and “media politically undesirable”. Forcing customers to acquire a certain set-top-box is “impermissible customer retention”, she complained.