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Altice accepts CSA mediation in Free dispute

Altice France has accepted mediation from audiovisual media regulator the CSA in its dispute with service provider Free over carriage terms for its TV channels, ending for now the threat that they could be removed from the Freebox service.

Altice said in a tweet that it had noted that Free was no longer rejecting in principle the idea of a global agreement covering the distribution of its free-to-air channels and associated services for remuneration in the same way that the service provider had concluded agreements with commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6.

It said that as a result it would accept the CSA’s proposal of mediation in the dispute.

The move followed a threatened withdrawal of channels BFMTV, RMC Découverte, RMC Story, BFM Business and associated services that was due to come into effect from today.

However, Free reportedly said that it has not yet received a clear commercial proposal that includes the provision of added value services such as replay TV or exclusive content, which would be necessary if it were to agree to pay for the channels.

Altice has been engaged in a battle to secure carriage fees for its free channels following the success of national commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6 in securing better terms for their own channels after a period of sometimes intense discord between the TV channel providers and operators – including Altice France-owned SFR, which questioned the legality of TF1’s approach.

Altice’s channels have a smaller audience than the national free-to-air services of TF1 and M6, but the group does hold key sports rights, including Champions League football, the free-to-view final of which is set to be aired on BFMTV on June 1.