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German broadcasters group slams Vodafone concessions

German commercial broadcaster association Vaunet has slammed Vodafone’s moves to secure EC regulatory approval of its acquisition of Liberty Global’s Unitymedia as missing the point.

Vaunet managing director Harald Flemming said that Vodafone’s moves were “could only astonish” observers as they “mostly” met requirements under existing German regulations for open access to broadband networks under non-discriminatory terms and the general principle of net neutrality.

Vodafone has struck a deal with Telefónica Deutschland to provide access to the latter to its broadband network in a move designed ensure that the EC gives approval to cable giant Liberty Global’s sale of its Germany business to the operator.

Vodafone submitted a remedy package comprising the cable wholesale agreement and a commitment to ensure sufficient capacity is available for OTT TV distribution to the EC to secure approval of the deal with Liberty.

The operator said that in combination, the wholesale agreement and OTT commitment would enhance broadband competition in Germany to the benefit of consumers and broadcasters.

Flemming said that the opening up of broadband access was “already enshrined” in the country’s telecommunication law while the maintenance of net neutraility “must be self-evident”.

Vaunet maintains that a combined Vodafone and Unitymedia would enable the telecom operator to dictate commercial terms to pay and free TV providers regarding not only carriage fees but exclusive distribution windows and DVB-C broadcast capacity.

Flemming said that Vodafone’s proposed measures ignored the cable video market and brought nothing to improve OTT distribution.

He said that commitments that were relevant to the Dutch market, where Vodafone and Liberty Global combined their propositions in the VodafoneZiggo JV, were not importable to the German market, where the situation of commercial broadcasters varies from state to state and where cable distribution, often bundled with housing rental agreements, represented a barrier to entry.