The commercial dispute that kept two of Bulgaria’s commercial television stations bTV and TV7 off Bulsatcom screens has ended with an agreement on terms for future co-operation.
An agreement was signed on the night of January 23 2013, reportedly after the intervention of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, although earlier he had said that he would not intervene.
The dispute was about the fees to be paid to the television stations by Bulsatcom, one of Bulgaria’s major cable television providers. In December, when it broke off its signal transmission via Bulsatcom, bTV said that the cable company had failed to pay fees due. There was also disagreement about future terms. Bulsatcom had said that the fees demanded by bTV were exorbitant and would mean unaffordably higher prices for subscribers, while at the dispute grew more heated, allegations were aired that Bulsatcom had been deliberately inaccurate about its subscriber numbers, an allegation rejected as unfounded by Bulsatom.
Both sides complained to various Bulgarian institutions and both said that they would raise the matter at European Union level. However, institutions such as the Council for Electronic Media, the body charged by statute with regulation of Bulgaria’s broadcast media, said that it would not intervene because the matter was purely a commercial dispute.
BTV and TV7 also had said that they would lay charges of intellectual property theft against Bulsatcom, alleging that it had continued to show their programmes even after the two stations withdrew because of the dispute. Bulsatcom rejected this allegation.
On January 24, it was reported that Bulsatcom had begun restoring the signals of both stations to its subscribers.
Bulsatcom co-owner Maxim Zayakov told local media that the negotiations had been difficult for both sides and he was very pleased that an agreement had been reached that would allow the company to continue to offer its subscribers a variety of content with balanced prices.
BTV said that the agreement would allow transmissions on Bulsatcom to go ahead with raising prices for end users.
Earlier, Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski said that at the insistence of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, his ministry – which has communications within its portfolio – and the Communications Regulation Commission had done their best to resolve the dispute between Bulsatcom and bTV and TV7.
The state has undertaken to take measures to combat the informal sector among cable operators, with the setting up of a working group that includes representatives of the Communications Regulation Commission, the National Revenue Agency and the Interior Ministry.