German media authorities and Tele Columbus in carriage fee dispute
February 26, 2018 10.58 Europe/London By Jörn Krieger
According to the German media authorities, cable operator Tele Columbus treats commercial free-to-air TV broadcasters unequally,
The operator only requires some broadcasters to pay a redistribution fee for their channels while it carries others without receiving a payment.
This is an unjustified difference in treatment within the framework of the broadcast law, the media authorities’ commission for licensing and supervision (ZAK) decided at its latest meeting in Hanover. ZAK is now calling on Tele Columbus to remedy the inequality of treatment in carriage contracts and to provide evidence of equal treatment of commercial free-TV broadcasters to its locally responsible media authority MABB in Berlin.
According to the broadcast law, channel operators must be treated equally and must not be discriminated against “without a factually justified reason”. Platform providers, for example cable operators, are therefore not allowed to set their charges and tariffs for similar broadcasters differently. Tele Columbus, however, does not charge fees for some broadcasters, but does so for others, according to the findings of the media authorities. In their opinion, the cable company has no objectively justifying reason for this in the sense of diversity of opinion, thus the unequal treatment is considered to be a violation.
Platform operators are basically entitled to introduce new contracts and thus new business models. There must not, however, be a transitional period in which some broadcasters will have to pay for the distribution of their channels by the platform operator and others will not.
Previously, news channel N24 (now called WELT) had already filed a complaint at MABB against Tele Columbus on the grounds of discriminatory carriage fees. In February 2016, ZAK concluded that Tele Columbus unequally treats the similar channels N24, Phoenix and n-tv regarding fees and tariffs despite providing them with identical distribution services. Tele Columbus subsequently filed a complaint against the decision and the proceedings are still ongoing.
In the meantime, MABB had examined further carriage contracts and thus the fee structures of Tele Columbus in principle. On this basis, ZAK was able to decide on this matter at its latest meeting.