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Baltkom appeals against Court’s decision on TV3 retransmission ban

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Lauris Klavins

Lauris Klavins

January 26 the television operator Baltkom appealed against Riga City Central District Court’s decision to stop the retransmission of the channels TV3 at cable networks, Baltkom representative Lauris Kļaviņš (Klavins) reveals.

Klavins points out Baltkom disagrees with the Court’s ruling and dismisses criticism of not solving the conflict situation.

Firstly, this issue affects commerce channel retransmission conditions, which is a matter of both the contracting parties. Secondly, TV3 is a free-air channel, which we have to broadcast in line with the law. The current situation ties these two issues together, and we perceive this as a serious pressure on two business entities’ discussions on cooperation. There are arguments putting our party at a dead end, Klavins says.

Klavins emphasizes the company has obligations to its subscribers and Baltkom does not object to introduce order in mutual rights. We were prepared to sign the proposed agreement only if it did not set a price for TV3. However, TV3, under the pretence of the economic crisis and unclear business plans, wants to set a fee applied if TV3 is no longer available free of charge. Currently, the channel’s management cannot clearly state when this might happen, and we cannot agree to terms coming into force in an unknown period of time, Baltkom representative explains.

Kaspars Ozoliņš (Ozolins), the Head of MTG Baltic branch, the international broadcasting group representing the media TV3, TV6, 3+, New Media, Star FM radio and Viasat in Latvia, stresses the company is ready to negotiate the agreement terms, but it will continue insisting on the provided model, which covers the procedure in the case TV3 decides not to be a national channel any more.

We are ready to negotiate with Baltkom, but the cable operator does not see why discussions are necessary. By law, which mainly favours operators’ interests, we cannot currently require payment for our content. The cable operator receives payment for its services from subscribers, but we do not get anything. We want to stipulate the model on what will happen when we no longer are a national channel to avoid the situation when operators start blackmailing us. We already experienced this when operators announced they would not broadcast us if we required payment for programme transmission, Ozolins says.

At the moment, MTG has not considered a specific time when the channel’s transfer in other status will take place. The company is assessing all models that could make its business more successful. We need to find means to produce national content. The current advertising market is sufficiently fragmented and diminished. These funds are not as big as to produce national content at such extent as we and viewers would wish, indicates the Head of MTG Baltic branch.

Ozolins points out starting from July 1 this year, Lithuania’s national televisions will have the right of charging operators, while in Estonia this standard has been in use for a long time already. But last year, when the Electronic Media Law was drafted, the national televisions’ suggestion was not taken into consideration.

Now the state has to decide whether it wants to have a national production. I do not see any reason to pay 650 000 lats yearly in order to reach only about 10% of Latvia’s population. We have turned to both the Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and the Minister of Culture Sarmīte Ēlerte, and we plan to contact the Minister of Economics Artis Kampars so that the state amends the laws and determines what a national information space is, and whether a national media is given the task of ensuring local production. Therefore, at present it is not clear whether and when we will stop broadcasting for free, Ozolins specifies.

Dace Buceniece, the Vice-President of the National Council for Electronic Media, informs only today, January 27, the Council has heard out both involved parties and decided to analyze this issue together with the Competition Council.

The newspaper Dienas Bizness previously reported that Riga City Central District Court judge Velga Gailīte has ordered the telecommunications company Baltkom to stop the retransmission of channels TV3, 3 + and TV6 at cable networks.

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