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Free poised to drop Altice France channels

French service provider Free is poised to cease distributing Altice France’s channels as the carriage fee dispute between the pair rumbles on, according to a press report.

According to Le Figaro, citing unnamed sources, Free is set to stop distributing the channels from Friday, following demand by Altice that telecom operators pay for the channels and associated services.

The move follows a ruling by media watchdog the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) that Free has the right to refuse to carry the channels.

The CSA ruled that if broadcasters can demand fees for the retransmission of the channels on non-over-the-air networks, there is nothing to force distributors from carrying these services.

The watchdog said that it had “made its best efforts to help the parties reach an agreement” and invited them to continue to engage in discussions “in the interest of viewers”.

BFM TV, RMC Découverte and Diversité TV asked the CSA to mediate the dispute between them and Free earlier this year after Free refused to accept demands for fees linked to the provision of the channels and added value services.

Free’s decision to stop broadcasting the services will also have been influenced by a ruling by the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance that it must pay up €100,000 for each day that it continues to air the services after August 27 unless it strikes a deal with Altice France.

Altice has attempted to emulate the success of national broadcasters TF1 and M6 in forcing ISPs to pay for the carriage of channels and associated digital services that they say adds value to the basic offering that has previously been available free of charge. However Free and Orange have so far declined to strike a deal on these terms.

Free customers that connect hybrid boxes to rooftop antennas will still be able to view the channels via digital-terrestrial TV.