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Altice France and Free in stand-off over channels

Altice France and Iliad Telecom/Free are engaged in a stand-off over the carriage of the former’s channels by the latter.

Altice France said it was pulling its TV channels from Free’s TV platform after the pair failed to strike acceptable carriage terms, despite the intercession of media regulator the CSA as arbitrator.

“Despite our position of being open to the prolongation of the discussion period, Free has refused to negotiate a distribution agreement,” said Altice France. The group said that its channels therefore could not legally be distributed by Free, and blamed the latter for the impasse.

Free immediately responded with a communiqué of its own, saying it would continue to make the channels available to its subscribers in line with French regulations, despite Altice’s move to cut off the signal of free services BFMTV, RMC Découverte and RMC Story.

Free cited article 1.1 of the convention of the three channels granted by the CSA, which obliges them to be made freely available on ADSL and fibre networks to justify its continued transmission of the services. It said that the Freebox service would continue to make free digital-terrestrial TV channels available to its subscribers.

Altice threatened to pull its channels from Free in March after a battle to secure carriage fees for the services – something achieved by larger national broadcasters TF1 and M6 for their services following similar disputes with distributors.

However, it subsequently seemed that the pair may be moving towards a reconciliation after Altice accepted an offer of mediation from the CSA.

Altice France CEO Alain Weill recently told Le Figaro newspaper that his group had been asking for talks with Free for nine months before the dispute erupted into the open. He said that Altice remained open to discussion but added that the group had received no counter-proposal from Free, something that would be expected if the ISP was acting in good faith.