German housing industry warns cable operators
Jörn Krieger

Germany’s federal association of housing and real estate companies, GdW, has spoken out against additional fees for digital free-to-air TV channels on cable networks.

“The current analogue free-to-air TV offer must also be available in digital without surcharges,” GdW president Lutz Freitag demanded in Berlin, adding that it was especially important for cable networks that the transition from analogue to digital media supply takes place in a user-friendly way.

Freitag sees two main reasons for the low acceptance of digital television amongst cable customers: The first being that many households are satisfied with the analogue TV offer, the other that the large commercial TV groups are trying to use the transition to digital television as a pretext to introduce a new business model in which they charge viewers fees for reception of previously free-to-air channels.

Freitag criticised this as being unfounded and unacceptable, claiming that this commercial strategy hinders the swift equipping of households with digital reception devices. “Broadcasters then pass the buck onto cable operators and housing companies: They should explain to their customers and tenants what can’t be explained,” complained Freitag.

Instead of additional value in the form of improved and more abundant offers enabled through the more efficient digital distribution, viewers are only confronted with the prospect of additional costs for the same, currently freely available channels, Freitag said, adding that the consequence is that digital television remains unattractive for the majority of tenants and housing companies.

“Consumers must be convinced of an additional value before they will switch to the digital world and not be scared off with higher financial and administrative burdens,” warned Freitag. He also called for a renunciation of the encryption of digital free-to-air channels. Encoding signals and requiring a smartcard for reception is only necessary and acceptable for pay-TV channels, he said.

Freitag announced that contact with the federal consumer protection authority and German tenants’ association would be made over the forthcoming days in order to jointly appeal for friendly changeover regulations at politicians and broadcasters.